Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Daily Numbers - December 31

The Daily Numbers: 1 dead and one serious injured in what police in Upper Darby are calling a murder-suicide attempt.
4.6 acre parcel that developers of the Chester soccer stadium project want added to a Keystone Opportunity Zone for tax breaks. They’re locked in a dispute with the Chester Upland School District Empowerment Board.
1.8 million dollars in sales taxes the group would save if they can add that parcel to the KOZ.
115 million dollars, how much the developers will spend on the stadium.
4 percent jump in taxes under the new budget in Newtown Township.
1 million dollars more in spending in this year’s Sharon Hill budget, although council will not hike taxes.
15 percent decline in homicides in Philadelphia this year. The city had 392 homicides last year, compared to 332 so far in 2008.
11 city libraries that have gotten a temporary reprieve with a judge saying Mayor Michael Nutter cannot close them without getting the OK from city council.
10 statues of the baby Jesus that were stolen from various Nativity displays in Bucks County. Police have recovered them and are looking for the owners. It is believed to have been a prank played by kids. Bah, humbug!
60 exotic birds removed by state animal investigators from a home in Monroe County that was described as being “deplorable.”
1 dead in the crash of a small plane in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
1 dollar, what someone paid for the 80-year-old Beesley’s Point Bridge that links Somers Point and Upper Township down at the Jersey shore.
500 workers getting pink slips at QVC in West Chester, which is eliminating jobs in its distribution center.
10 a.m., time the Mummers Parade will kick off Thursday morning on Broad Street in South Philly.
1.69 a gallon, average price for gas in the Philadelphia region, after prices dipped another 2 cents.
15 to 1, odds on the Eagles winning the Super Bowl after they made the playoffs.
14,000 tickets still available to Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game pitting the Eagles against the Giants at the Metrodome.
40 percent of Vikings season ticket holders that decided to skip the playoff game.
1 win in 3 tries on the road for the Flyers, who beat the Canucks in Vancouver last night, but might have lost Simon Gagne in the process.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Something that should concern Eagles fans. The Vikings have the No. 1 defense against the run in the NFL. That could lead Andy Reid to throw the ball on Sunday. A lot.
I Don’t Get It: Be safe tonight. Don’t drink and drive. And please don’t take part in that other odd New Year’s tradition, firing off weapons to mark the new year. Here’s a tip: What goes up must come down.
Today’s Upper: Hey, we survived another year. At this point, we’ll take it.

Quote Box: “All I want is our piece of the action.”
-- Juan Baughn, Chester Upland Empowerment Board member, on a request for tax breaks from the developer of the city’s new soccer stadium.

Two celebrations we can do without

I wrote about this last year and it bears repeating.
Go ahead, don the party hats, make all the noise you want tonight.
After all, we only turn the calendar over once a year.
But there are two specific things no one should do at midnight. No, singing 'Auld Lang Syne is not one of them.
No, we're targeting a couple of other so-called traditions.
First, if you are planning to imbibe, do not get behind the wheel. Make sure someone in the group is tabbed to be the designated driver. Call a cab. Many nightspots actually will pay for the ride home.
We deal with enough sad stories here at the newspaper every day. We really don't need to kick off the new year with more tragedy, lives damaged or needlessly lost because someone decided they were "fine" and drove home when they had no business getting behind the wheel.
Need another reason? There will be lots of DUI checkpoints out there. Want to start the new year behind bars?
There's one other tradition we'll take a solid stand against. That would be the inane practice of firing off guns to ring in the new year.
Have you ever heard the old adage, "What goes up must come down?" Same goes for bullets.
There are more than enough gun problems plaguing our towns. Let's not add any more.
Here's hoping for a great -- and most of all safe -- new year!

Sad way to end the year

Break out the lamp shades, silly hats and those huge glasses in the shape of 2009.
That’s 364 down, one to go. Yes, it’s the final day of 2008.
And unfortunately, the year is going out in the same fashion it rang in so many days this year in Delaware County.
Police in Upper Darby say a man showed up at the home of his girlfriend’s parents. He was looking for her. And he was not in a good mood.
He attacked her while her family, including her little sister, looked on in horror.
He eventually chased her upstairs into a bathroom. That’s where the girlfriend was found stabbed to death.
The boyfriend then apparently tried to take his own life, according to Upper Darby police.
Damn sad way to end the year, one that has been all too familiar in 2008.

Andy's future

Most Eagles fans, myself included, believe that miracle that landed in the Birds’ laps Sunday, with them crushing the Cowboys and getting into the playoffs, likely means the return of Andy Reid as head coach next year.

Beat writer Bob Grotz is not among them. Check out what Bob thinks might happen here.

Fascinating stuff.

A caution about those Vikings

Here’s a caveat for Eagles fans still juiced about the almost surreal turn of events that landed the Birds a spot in the NFC playoffs.

It has to do with their opponent on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings. One of the things the Vikes do very well is stop the run. In fact, they have the No. 1 ranked defense against the run in the NFL.

This should set off alarm bells for Eagles fans. Specifically those who fear that Andy Reid is just itching to go back to his pass-happy offense at the first sign of a stumble in his run game.

The truth is the Birds likely will have to pass the ball to beat the Vikings. But they can’t abandon the run, and they certainly can’t throw on 16 straight plays, as they did in the abominable effort against the Redskins two weeks ago.

My prediction in this game will not come until it’s usual slot in this space on Saturday. In the meantime, yes, I think there is reason to be worried.

Born to run? Not this coach. And not his team. That might lead to a win against the Vikings. But it could mean disaster the following week against the Giants.

If that’s the case, Reid could find himself running for cover.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 30

The Daily Numbers: 8 people homeless after a raging fire roared through their twin homes in Colwyn. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.
2 million dollars in tax savings being sought by developers of the new soccer stadium in Chester.
6 incidents of retail theft recorded at stores in Springfield in recent days.
3,600 homes in Chester who will have a new choice when it comes to cable TV service in the New Year. The city has cut a deal with Verizon for its FIOS service.
69,117 dollars that have poured in to the Merry Christmas Fund, soaring way over our goal of $50,000 to help the Salvation Army.
39 dollar tax hike facing residents in Colwyn under the new borough budget.
2 more days before the Mummers strut their stuff up Broad Street on New Year’s Day.
6 hours of strutting on tap this year, with budget cuts meaning a shorter parade route.
14, age of boy in Claymont who a 38-year-old woman is charged with having sex with.
12 Metro PCS stores in Philadelphia that have been the targets of holdup attempts. 5 people have been charged in one of the heists.
10 percent hike in natural gas costs for PECO heating customers, starting on Thursday.
2 cent dip in the price of gasoline in the Philly region over the weekend. Average price at pump is now $1.71. It’s $1.41 in South Jersey. Almost worth the trip across the bridge.
7 persons killed in a fire in a home in Southwest Philly that officials now say was caused by a person mistakenly filling a kerosene heater with gasoline.
20 percent of Philadelphia’s 54 library branches that could be shuttered under a plan by Mayor Michael Nutter. It continues to be hotly debated in the city. Nutter is trying to find ways to save some of the facilities.
66 percent of home buyers who now report it’s a “good time” to buy in the Philadelphia area market, according to a study by Prudential Fox & Roach.
36 million dollars, that’s how much “Marley & Me” took in at the box office over the weekend, winning the holiday weekend movie competition.
2 to 1, odds in Vegas that the Giants will repeat as Super Bowl champions.
20,000 tickets still available to Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game pitting the Eagles against the Giants at the Metrodome.
120 bucks a ticket for two seats in the upper deck on the 30-yard line, snagged online.
1 tie against the Bengals that allowed the Birds to make the playoffs.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Andy Reid is not going anywhere. Except to Metrodome for the NFC playoffs. Reid will be back next year. Whether or not that is a good thing is still to be determined.
I Don’t Get It: Vandals decided to leave their calling card – spray-painted graffiti - on St. Joseph’s Church in Collingdale. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to all who are coming up big for the Salvation Army through our Merry Christmas Fund. We soared over our goal of $50,000 and now stand at more than $69,000 raised to help the Salvation Army.

Quote Box: “It’s from play to play and you’re criticized for the bad and praised for the good. It’s a great atmosphere for football.”
-- Andy Reid, on coaching and playing with the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Dandy, Andy

Fans of this blog (yes, both of you) may recall an item that appeared here last week.

I wrote it Monday morning, still seething over the Eagles’ performance against the Redskins the day before. The Eagles held their playoff destiny in their hands. All they had to do was win their final two games, against Washington and Dallas, and they were in, regardless of what other playoff contenders did.

Of course, the Eagles responded to this challenge by basically failing to catch the train to D.C. They played one of the most dreadful games of the Andy Reid era, losing 10-3 and at the same time losing control of their destiny.

It shook out like this. The Eagles needed about a thousand things to go their way, then beat the Cowboys, to have a shot at the playoffs. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. Call it the Christmas miracle, three days late.

Now back to last week. In that blog item I posted Monday morning, I indicated it was time for Andy Reid to go. And that he should take Donovan McNabb, L.J. Smith, Reggie Brown and Greg Lewis with him.

Yesterday, most “experts” – fans and media members alike – were busy falling on their swords. Pushed by those still loyal to Reid, it was pointed out how wrong all those “experts” had been.

I’m hardly an expert. I’m just a fan. And I’m still not ready to admit that I was wrong.

Oh, I can admit Reid is now going to be back next year. I think it’s pretty likely McNabb will join him. Making the playoffs will do that for you.

But I still have my concerns about both Reid and McNabb. Reid remains stubborn to a fault, a pass-happy coach in a league in which the balance of power has now switched to the run. McNabb continues to be inconsistent, still throwing balls into the ground when receivers are wide open right in front of him, and for some reason now seemingly reluctant to use one of his best weapons – his legs. Again on Sunday there were instances where McNabb easily could have rambled for a first down, but instead tried to complete a pass only to toss another worm-burner.

That argument now will be left for another day. The bottom line is the Eagles are in the playoffs. And it says here they have as good a shot as anyone else in the NFC to be playing for the chance to go to the Super Bowl.

That begins Sunday in Minnesota, where Reid will face his old offensive coordinator Brad Childress.

Will we get the “effective balance” Andy who does not give up on the run, or the “mad scientist” pass-happy guy who decides to throw the ball 70 times? The Vikings are very good against the run. The argument would be that the Eagles will have to throw the ball to beat them. I think that would be a mistake.

And I think Reid knows it. Or at least I hope he does. Maybe, just maybe over the volcanic last couple of weeks, Reid has discovered that elusive “balance.”

That would make the Eagles a very dangerous team in the playoffs. I think they beat the Vikes, then brace for a titanic tilt with the Giants.

Andy Reid isn’t going anywhere. Except to Minnesota and then to the Meadowlands. And he’s taking Donovan McNabb with him.

No place like dome

Apparently playoff fever has not yet arrived in Minnesota.

The Vikings face the Eagles on Sunday in an NFC Wild Card contest. But the Vikes’ fans are as chilly as the weather outdoors.

Somehow Minnesota just does not seem like the same football region since the Vikings moved into the comfy confines of the Metrodome. They should be playing outside, where they had one of the great home-field advantages in sports.

I always wondered what legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant would have thought of moving their games indoors. How are you supposed to see your breath in perfect 72-degree weather?

Apparently fans in the Twin Cities have not exactly warmed up to head coach Brad Childress. If the name sounds familiar, it should.

Yep, that’s the same Brad Childress who once served as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator. He’s got Andy’s sense of public relations as well. He’s not exactly a quote machine.

Bottom line? If you want to head to Minnesota for Sunday’s game, getting a ticket likely won’t be a problem. Right now there are about 20,000 tickets available for Sunday’s contest. It is expected that the playoff game might wind up being blacked out in the local TV market.

Imagine that kind of heresy here? The Metrodome might wound up being more of a home field for the Birds than the Vikes, should the local faithful decide to invade the joint on Sunday.

Keep saying to yourself: There’s no place like dome….

Mindless graffiti: Is there another kind?

It takes a certain kind of anger to target someone else’s property and deface it with graffiti.

But when the object of that wrath is a local church, that’s taking it to a whole new low.

Officials in Collingdale are trying to determine who is responsible for spray-painting graffiti on St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church.

There doesn’t seem to be any specific anti-Catholic action at work here. Just the work of some lowlife knuckleheads.

Let’s hope they catch these neanderthals quickly.

And for their penance ….

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Christmas miracle ... for Eagles fans

Christmas came late for Eagles fans. Exactly three days late.

In a wild day that will go down as one of the most memorable in Eagles' history, a bizarre chain of events fell like dominos to create the perfect scenario: Eagles vs. Cowboys with the winner going to the playoffs and the loser going home.

The result? A 44-6 demolition of the hated Cowboys and a spot in the playoffs. Ho, ho, ho indeed.

Here's what had to happen: First and foremost, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to lose their fourth straight game to the suddenly rejuvenated Oakland Raiders. Presto! The Bucs cought it up. Then comes step two. Either the Bears or Vikes also had to lose. While the Vikings didn't help the cause, beating the Giants, the Bears stepped into the breech and flopped against the Texans.

Suddenly, the game everyone believed was going to be meaningless suddenly was for all the marbles.

And you could almost see the "gulp" in the Cowboys' throats.

Dallas promptly came out and got crushed at a raucous Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won, 44-6, to capture the final NFC Wild Card slot. They will play in Minnesota next Sunday at 4:30.

Forget all those chants for Andy Reid's head. Yesterday's win - and another playoff appearance - pretty much save his job for another year. The future for Donovan McNabb - who simply could not resist taking on the mantel of martyr after the game - is not as clear, but it would seem he also will be back.

For now, Eagles fans simply can revel in a day to remember.

It was a day when everything had to break their way. And did.

Now the Eagles need to cash the ticket that fell into their lap. They need to go to Minnesota and play the way they did yesterday in manhandling the 'Boys.

Merry Christmas, Eagles fans.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

This was supposed to mean something. It was going to be the capper to the holiday week. Eagles-Cowboys at the Linc. Winner take all, or at least a playoff spot.

Only one problem. The Eagles failed to show up on offense at Washington last week. They lost, 10-7, making Sunday's clash with the Cowboys mean a lot less than it might have.

The truth is the Eagles, who held their fare in their hands as they walked onto the field last Sunday in D.C., now are the longest of long shots. And once again, they will know when they take the field if their faint playoff heart beat is still ticking.

It says here they are dead meat. The Bucs' late season El Foldo will not include going belly-up at home against the Raiders. The Tampa win will officially end the Eagles' shot.

It will not, however, end the intrigue surruonding the Birds vs. 'Boys. That's because that while we have spent the week lamenting Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' inept offense, going unsaid is that all the Cowboys need to do is win to make the playoffs. That's right. Dallas still controls its fate.

And while the Eagles may take the field knowing their playoff hopes are over, they also will take the field knowing they can eliminate the hated Cowboys.

Don't get too excited. The Eagles are not up to the task. Oh, they may be on defense. But when it comes to offense, I'll take a page out of Reid's playbook. I'll pass.

Make it Cowboys 27, Eagles 16.

Turn out the lights, the party's over. Then we can wait for Andy to take to the podium Monday and announce that next year he is going to be need to do a better job of putting player in position to make plays.

Don't wait for Jeff Lurie or Joe Banner to end this misery. They're joined at the hip with Reid. Instead, I think they'll dump this mess of a season in McNabb's lap and look to make a new start with Kevin Kolb next year.

When do pitchers and catchers report?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 23

The Daily Numbers: 81, age of Marie Ott, who was brutally murdered in her Ridley Township home back in October. Police have charged Jermaine Burgess in her killing. It’s the second murder charge filed against him in a matter of days.
5 inches, how deep one of the stab wounds inflicted on Ott penetrated her body, according to police.
14 straight Christmases in jail for H. Beatty Chadwick, who was again denied a furlough to spend the holiday with his family. He’s been in jail on a civil contempt charge longer than any other American.
1,000 jobs added to the local economy by Harrah’s Casino in Chester.
8 bucks, how much a teen got when he pulled a gun on a person on a Chester street over the weekend.
35,775 dollars raised to date in our annual holiday fund drive, the Merry Christmas Fund. We need a big push to hit our goal of $50,000 to help the Salvation Army. We got a huge boost yesterday when more than $6,000 flowed into the fund.
5 Muslim suspects convicted of conspiracy in a plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix. They were acquitted of the more serious charges of attempted murder, but they still could face life in prison.
1 person killed in a crash last night on Route 252 in Newtown Square.
6 years old, that would be the murder of Jennifer Whipkey in South Jersey. Police made an arrest in the cold case yesterday.
10,000 dollar reward now being posted for the return for a cache of weapons believed worth $200,000 from a truck in the parking lot of an eatery in King of Prussia.
28, age of suspect charged in Delaware in a fatal hit-and-run that took the life of an emergency technician who was offering assistance at the scene of a motorcycle accident.
7 robberies believed to be the work of 3 armed suspects in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
3 violent home invasions, including an attack on a Penn student, believed to be the work of the same person.
1 person in critical condition after flames roared through her apartment in South Philly early this morning.
66 percent of home buyers who now report it’s a “good time” to buy in the Philadelphia area market, according to a study by Prudential Fox & Roach.
24 hours, how long the Forman Mills store on Aramingo Avenue in Philly will stay open on Tuesday, with a percentage of sales going to help the Mummers.
2 cent decline in the price we’re paying at the pump. Average cost of gas in the Philly area now stands at $1.74.
39.91, what a barrel of crude oil is now going for, that’s down another 6 percent.
70 years of producing cars for Toyota. They posted their first loss ever yesterday.
1 foot short of the end zone for Reggie Brown, after he gathered in that 17-yard strike from Donovan McNabb as time expired.
4:15 starting time for the Birds vs. Cowboys Sunday at the Linc. The game was changed from 1 for TV. By then it is likely the Eagles will already know if their slim playoff hopes have expired.
18, as in No. 18. That would be Villanova, which struggled a bit before sinking Navy last night, 78-68.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone catch any of the Bears game last night? They played just like the Eagles – for three quarters. Then they woke up and played with the kind of urgency the Eagles never showed on Sunday.
I Don’t Get It: How can people show the kind of cold, callous, brutal actions that took the lives of Hoa Pham and Marie Ott? It’s scary what people are capable of.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to all who are coming up big for the Salvation Army through our Merry Christmas Fund. Yesterday more than $6,000 poured in, raising the total to more than $35,000. We still have a way to go to hit our goal of $50,000.

Quote Box: “I had to be here. He destroyed two families’ lives. None of us will ever get over it.”
-- Joseph Elia, son of murder victim Marie Ott, on why he was in court yesterday as the man charged in her killing was brought to justice.

For 2 families, a sorrowful sense of closure

Delaware County is a safer place today. Jermaine Burgess is no longer walking among us.

Unfortunately, that come as little comfort to the families of Hoa Pham and Marie Ott.

They will take solace in knowing police now believe they know who is responsible for their loved one’s heinous deaths.

Burgess was picked up on Saturday morning after DNA evidence gathered by Upper Darby police investigating the brutal home invasion that took the life of Pham linked him to the attack.

Police did not expect what happened next.

The horrific murder of Ott, whose body had been found in her home in the Derwood Park section of Ridley Township back in October, had been unsolved. Family members believed the trail was growing cold.

Enter Jermaine Burgess. Police in Upper Darby indicate that after he was taken into custody in the Pham killing, Burgess volunteered that he also was responsible for killing Ott. They contacted police in Ridley Township.

Yesterday Burgess was hauled into district court in Ridley and charged in Ott’s murder.

It is hard to fathom the brutality that went into these two home invasions and killings. In both instances, the victims were tied up and brutally attacked.

Upper Darby police Superintendent Mike Chitwood is not one to mince words when it comes to describing criminals. He’s famous for slapping the term “scumbag” on those who perpetrate crimes on his turf.

But even Chitwood was taken aback a bit by what happened inside the Pham house.

On Saturday, with Burgess in custody, Chitwood referred to him as an “animal.”

When you see what happened inside the Pham house, and just a few weeks before that to Marie Ott, it’s hard to argue with him.

A sense of urgency - and execution

After telling us for weeks that “I have to do a better job of putting players in position to make plays,” Andy Reid on Monday repeated the obvious, only with different words.

The Eagles’ boss took the time to point out to the assembled media that wide receiver Reggie Brown was in fact not in the right place when he caught that last-second pass from Donovan McNabb. Reid said Brown needed to be in the end zone. Instead, he gathered the ball in mid-air just short of the goal line, and was immediately thrown backward by two swarming Redskin defenders.

Game, set and match, as the clock expired on the game – and likely the Eagles season.

It’s ironic that Reid, who rarely gives specifics when it comes to critiquing his team, singled out Brown. The wide receiver has been perceived to be in Reid’s dog house. The only reason he was in the lineup Sunday was because of injuries to Kevin Curtis and Hank Baskett. Brown had not even dressed for games the previous couple of weeks.

One other word struck me from Reid’s press conference. He lamented the team’s execution, especially on offense.

Which brings to mind the famous quote from then Tampa Bay coach John McKay, the USC legend, during the team’s horrible first year in the NFL. A scribe asked what McKay what thought of his team’s execution.

His pithy response: “I’m in favor of it.”

Such a response is clearly beyond Reid’s grasp.

Things didn’t get any easier for the Birds after the Monday night game, though there was a lesson to be learned from it.

The Bears won, thus keeping their playoff hopes alive and making the Eagles’ odds just that much longer.

But there was something very similar – and at the same time very different - about the way the Bears went about their business last night.

For the first three quarters they mimicked the Eagles, seemingly content to throw their season away as they trailed the Green Bay Packers.

Then suddenly, they seemed to realize what was at stake. They played with heart in the fourth quarter, blocked a last-second field goal by the Packers, and eventually won the game in overtime.

They displayed a sense of urgency.

Which is something most of the Eagles, especially those on offense, never did on Sunday.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 22

The Daily Numbers: 2 unsolved murders now being laid at the feet of Jermaine Burgess.
5 weeks from the time Hoa Pham’s body was discovered in his home until police were able to track down his suspected killer.
3 months, how long the family of Marie Ott of Ridley Township waited for an arrest in her brutal murder.
67,355,655 dollars, how much was wagered at Harrah’s Casino in Chester during the week of Dec. 8-14.
61,246,640 dollars paid out by Harrah’s during the same time.
2.8 percent tax hike looming in Glenolden, under the borough’s proposed budget.
29,635, how much has been raised to date in our annual holiday fund drive, the Merry Christmas Fund. We need a big boost to hit our goal of $50,000 to help the Salvation Army.
18 degrees, temperature outside as you head out the door this morning. The real-feel temperature is actually minus-3 degrees.
5 days, how long a jury has been deliberating the fate of 5 men charged in a plot to shoot soldiers at Fort Dix. They will continue trying to reach a verdict today.
24 machine guns and sniper rifles stolen from a pickup truck outside a pub in Montgomery County.
96 dogs seized during a raid by state dog wardens on a kennel in Ephrata.
1 officer wounded in a confrontation during a domestic dispute overnight in Abington. The officer is in stable condition.
22, age of woman sexually assaulted in the latest invasion of an apartment near the Penn campus.
12, age of boy missing in Delaware. Jayvon Moore of Oakmont was last seen around 3 p.m. Friday.
24 hours, how long some Macy’s stores are staying open as they count down toward Christmas.
20 years in jail for 2 brothers in the beating death of a Kutztown University student.
6.1 percent unemployment rate in Pa. after the state lost 26,000 jobs in November.
3 percent dip in travel being predicted in holiday travel by AAA as the nation lurches into the peak holiday travel season.
3 points posted by the Eagles as they fell to the Redskins, 10-3, all but killing off their slim playoff chances.
46 passes dialed up by Andy Reid during yesterday’s loss.
16 times the Eagles decided to run the ball.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Go ahead, admit it. You were furiously watching the crawl at the bottom of the 1 o’clock game yesterday and were jubilant when the Chargers pulled away from the Bucs. A lot of good it did us when the Eagles’ offense apparently failed to catch the train to D.C.
I Don’t Get It: Donovan McNabb threw a pass to a receiver who was not in the end zone, but was in the middle of the field, with no time left on the clock. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to police who tracked down the man suspected of killing both Hoa Pham of Upper Darby and Marie Ott of Ridley Township.

Quote Box: “We can’t afford to put our heads down right now. We have to learn from this and get ready to for next week.”
-- Donovan McNabb, after yesterday’s brutal loss to the Redskins.

Reid it and weep

Andy Reid needs to go.

So does Donovan McNabb.

They can take Greg Lewis with him. And make room for L.J. Smith on the bus out of town. Reggie Brown can sit on L.J.’s lap.

The Eagles are not going to the playoffs. I know, mathematically they are still alive. But the truth is they died Sunday in Washington.

They had been given a Christmas gift earlier in the day when the Chargers went into Tampa Bay and knocked off the Buccaneers. The Eagles held their destiny in their hands. And, as they would continue to do much of the afternoon, they dropped it.

The Eagles managed to put a total of three points – a single David Akers field goal – on the board and lost 10-3. Their defense played outstanding. But their offense was just that, simply offensive.

You can start with the head coach. This was classic Andy Reid. All that talk of balance and an effective running game went out the window as Reid went back to his pass-happy ways. In the process he threw away a golden opportunity to reach the post-season.

Reid dialed up 46 passes to just 16 running plays. This on a day of howling winds in Fed Ex Field, when the Eagles took the field without two key wide receivers, Kevin Curtis and Hank Baskett. It would seem to be a day again to bank on their best weapon, Brian Westbrook. No chance. Instead at one point the Eagles actually threw the ball 15 straight times.

Lewis set the tone on the Birds’ first offensive series. After they appeared to be moving the ball, the wideout who was in the lineup because of injuries managed a false start. First and 15, end of drive.

Later there’s the vision of L.J. Smith dropping a key pass from McNabb.

There’s Brian Westbrook for whatever reason seeming not to want to run straight ahead for potential first down at a key point in the second half. A first down appeared to be in his sight. Instead he comes up short, and McNabb fumbles on the next play. That leads to game’s only touchdown, as the Redskins take a 10-0 lead.

In the final 39 seconds, there is the vision of Smith catching balls and not having the presence of mind to get out of bounds to stop the clock, costing the Eagles precious time. Of course, what game would be without a wasted timeout coming back to bite the Birds. They used their first timeout just 20 seconds into the second half.

Finally, with the Eagles driving toward what might be a tying score, did anyone have any confidence that they were going to get it into the end zone?

I’ll be honest. I was betting McNabb was going to throw a killer interception. He did not. He did something else we have seen before. The Eagles managed to waste time on just about every play, then found themselves with time for just one final play.

McNabb threw a pass to Reggie Brown at the 1-yard line. Brown never had a chance to get into the end zone. Amazingly, after the game he admitted he probably should have run the route a little deeper, like in the end zone. Have we seen that before? Oh, yeah. That’s the thing about the Andy Reid era, the same problems happening year after year.

I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen all of it. It didn’t keep me from screaming at the TV. And mulling another year without the playoffs.

That great week leading up to a showdown with the Dallas Cowboys? Forget it.

The season’s over.

To err may be human, but to air it out time after time is Andy Reid.

That era needs to end. The sooner the better.

Justice for Hoa Pham

It took more than a month, but Sunday morning justice was delivered for Hoa Pham.

It was back on Nov. 10 that the normally quiet Drexel Hill community was rocked by the news of the vicious home invasion that took the life of the respected member of the Vietnamese community.

The heinous nature of the crime, which involved both Pham and his wife being tied up and beaten over the course of several hours, struck a chord in the community.

People began to wonder if they were safe in their homes. The attack appeared to be random. Police theorized the home was targeted because it was dark inside. Actually, Pham and his wife were preparing for bed.

They confronted the intruder, and so started a horrific ordeal that snuffed out the life of a man who had survived the horror of the Vietnam war and being held a prisoner of war.

It was said that Hoa Pham survived the brutality of the Vietnam War, but could not survive the mean streets of Upper Darby.

It took more than a month, but police believe they now have the man responsible for the brutal attack that took Pham’s life.

And there’s a bonus.

Superintendent Michael Chitwood indicated Saturday that DNA evidence led them to a career criminal, Jermaine Burgess, 37. He was charged with murder and a slew of other offenses in the Upper Darby home invasion.

It turns out police were not done with Burgess. It is believed he has now been implicated in a second unsolved murder in Delaware County. Police and the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office are expected to file new charges against Burgess in the murder of Marie Ott of Ridley Township. Ott was found in her Crum Creek Drive home back on Oct. 27 by a family member. She had been tied up and stabbed. She was found with a plastic bag over her head.

Upper Darby police say Burgess confessed to his role in the Ott slaying after being taken into custody in the Pham murder. Upper Darby then contacted Ridley police.

It’s expected Burgess will be arraigned on murder charges this morning.

Those mean streets of Delaware County just got a lot safer.

Real-feel? It's just cold

Forget the wind-chill index.

The forecasters have a new toy. It’s called real-feel temperature. You’re going to be hearing a lot about it this morning. Why? It’s incredibly cold out.

I have no idea what the real-feel temperature is, or how you arrive at it. Whatever it is, it was registering at minus-3 degrees this morning. The actual temperature is 18 degrees.

Let me simplify this for you. It’s real cold out. Dress warmly, Don’t forget the long underwear, hat, scarves and gloves.

The good news is that if we survive today, things are going to moderate for the rest of the holiday week. It’s supposed to warm up tomorrow, we’ll be in the 40s, and stay there.

Of course, if you’re dreaming of a White Christmas, you might be out of luck. There’s a chance of rain each day through Friday.

I know, the TV forecasters will be disappointed. No big storm to detail. They were almost apoplectic on Friday at the dusting we got, as well as on Sunday morning, with that nasty combination of rain, show and ice. But by late-morning it was already melting and the sun was out by noon.

Hey, at least they have the real-feel to fall back on. Whatever it is.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

It's the banged-up Birds vs. the banged-up Redskins.

Add into the mix what is supposed to be lousy weather up and down the East Coast, including D.C., where the game is set for 4:15.

For some reason, I'm not thinking about the Redskins; I'm thinking about the Giants. Specifically, the way the Eagles beat the New Yorkers in howling winds in the Meadowlands a few weeks back.

That day the Eagles did two things they must do again on Sunday. First, they stopped the Giants' vaulted running game. You might remember the last time the Eagles faced the 'Skins at the Linc back in October, they wound up with Clinton Portis' tire tracks all over them. That can't happen again. And I don't think it wll. The Birds' defense, led by marauding middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, has been playing very well. And Portis seems more interested in sniping at first-year coach Jim Zorn than lugging the football. Plus he's banged up, too.

This game calls for another big dose of Brian Westbrook, so the Eagles can control the clock and keep Portis off the field.

The Eagles must win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. And even then they still need help. Of course, they might get that in the 1 o'clock game if the Bucs should fold up at home against the Chargers. The Falcons are in Minnesota at the same time the Eagles are playing.

I think this one is a David Akers special. He kicks three field goals to keep the Birds alive.

Make it 24-13, Eagles.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 19

The Daily Numbers: 1 year and 1 week ago that Altimese Roberts, a 67-year-old grandmother, was found brutally slain in her home. On Thursday a “person of interest” was charged in the killing.
4.6 acre parcel that would be the site of a new stadium that would house the region’s new Major League Soccer team in Chester that developers would like to have added to a Keystone Opportunity Zone.
2 million dollars, how much the developers of the site would stand to save they get the tax break. Right now the Chester Upland School District wants to see developers offer more to city schools.
701 dollars, how much the average homeowner will pay in Springfield taxes next year. It’s the same as last year because the budget contains no tax hike.
22 dollar tax hike facing residents of Nether Providence after passage of the township budget.
0 tax hike for Chester residents as the city manages to keep the lid on spending with its new budget.
2 more persons on Chester’s Most Wanted List apprehended by police.
2 brazen daylight knife-point holdups along Bishop Avenue in Upper Darby believed to have been the work of the same person, who was busted by the combined work of Aldan and Upper Darby police.
81, age of man injured when his own car rolled over him in Ridley Park.
68, age of longtime Bethel Township Police Chief Dave Houser, who passed away this week.
11 slots licenses awarded by the state Gaming Control Board. One of them was not awarded to Donald Trump for a facility in Philly. He’s now suing the board.
19, age of suspect who was shot and killed when he refused to drop a suspected weapon when ordered to do so by a Philadelphia officer. It turned out to be a pellet gun.
24, age of school bus driver in Bear, Del., charged with having sex with a female middle school student on his bus.
26,000 jobs lost in Pennsylvania in November, according to state statistics.
50 years and 8.2 million vehicles built, all of which will come to an end today for the Chrysler plant in Newark, Del., which will shut down for good.
1,100 workers out of jobs when the plant shuts its doors for the last time. At its peak, it employed 5,600.
13 people arrested in a child porn probe in South Jersey. One of them is a high school music teacher. He’s chairman of the Fine Arts Department at West Deptford High School.
1 cent dip in average price of gas in the Philly region. We’re now paying $1.76 a gallon at the pumps.
2.1 percent decline in holiday travel predicted by AAA as the nation lurches into the peak holiday travel season.
5 game win streak snapped when the Flyers fell to the Canadiens last night.
4:15 time for Eagles-Redskins game Sunday. By then we’ll know if the Bucs fell to the Chargers. The Falcons also are in Minnesota in another late game Sunday.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Reggie Brown can’t figure out why he has been dropped from the starting rotation of Eagles wide receivers. Try looking at your hands, Reggie.
I Don’t Get It: Humane officials have busted up an operation in Wilkes-Barre in which kittens were branded with ear, neck and tail piercings. The kitties were being marketed on the Internet as “gothic kittens.”
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Chester cops, who continue to bag more and more members of their Most Wanted List. They got two more yesterday.

Quote Box: “They’re looking for something that’s going to benefit them by $2 million. And they’ve offered us a soccer coach.”
-- Marc Wooley, chairman of the Chester Upland Empowerment Board, on request by developers of the new soccer stadium to include the parcel in a Keystone Opportunity Zone to get some big tax breaks.

Not exactly taken by storm

So much for Round 1 of the great winter storm watch. I had a feeling this was going to happen.

I somehow managed to make it into work this morning, despite the dire predictions that we would be buffeted with a winter storm. Here’s an update at 7 a.m. It hasn’t arrived yet.

Maybe it’s going to the north of us, slamming into the Lehigh Valley and Poconos. You know they have now somehow morphed into part of the infamous northern and western suburbs.

For some reason, 12 schools have decided to either close or open late. I hope none of them are in Delaware County. The big news, as I just heard from our friends on TV, is that the roads are dry. How’s that for a headline.

Hey, maybe I’ll be proven wrong. Maybe it’s still en route. I’ll believe it when it gets here, and even then it sounds like for our area it’s going to be a rain event.

Doesn’t matter. It’s likely snowing somewhere. And that means big news for TV.

Besides, even if this storm misses us, another storm is forecast for Sunday.

Stay tuned.

Our night at the mall

Many thanks to those hearty souls who greeted us during our promotional event at Granite Run Mall last night.

I was on hand, along with columnist Gil Spencer, sports columnist Jack McCaffery, publisher Frank Gothie and staff writer John Roman. It was honor to be joined by Capt. Jose Santiago of the Chester Salvation Army, as well as his delightful daughter.

Several people made donations to our annual holiday drive, the Merry Christmas Fund. All proceeds benefit the operations of the Salvation Army and their crucial work in the city.

If you’d like to contribute, there’s still plenty of time. However, do not mail contributions to the Daily Times. Mail checks or money orders only to: Salvation Army, Box 1032, Brookhaven, PA 19015.

Also, contributors can make a donation online by logging on to the Salvation Army Web site,

Special thanks to the gentleman wearing the West End Boat Club, who regaled us on his memories of Reyburn’s Tavern in Chadds Ford and its 100-year-old proprietor, who recently passed away.

When he learned I was a native of Oxford, out in Chester County, the man took me on a walk down memory lane, spouting off a bunch of familiar names and old, longtime family friends.

It’s those kind things that make the holiday special.

The weekend football watch

Let’s move directly to the important news of the weekend – the NFL TV lineup.

The Eagles don’t play until 4:15 with their annual visit to the nation’s capital to play the Redskins.

But things actually start on Saturday night, when the Cowboys entertain the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense is brutal, but you would think Dallas should prevail at home. You almost have to root for the ‘Boys. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

At 1 you’ll want to check out the Chargers in Tampa Bay game. Let’s go, ‘Bolts. Just don’t bet the house on it. Tampa has not lost at home yet this year.

The Eagles need a loss by either the Bucs or the Falcons. Maybe the Chargers can muster one more decent effort before packing it in for the year. I wouldn’t count on it, though.

That takes us to 4. At the same time the Eagles and Redskins are tangling on Fox-29, the Falcons will be playing in Minnesota. This is the one we should pin our hopes on.

The Vikings need the game to clinch the NFC North title. The Falcons do not play well on the road. We’ll be on the edge of our seats every time they break away from the Eagles game for one of those updates by Curt Menefee, along with Howie and Terry.

Of course, none of this means a thing if the Eagles don’t win their game against the Redskins. After a decent start under first-year coach Jim Zorn, the ‘Skins have fallen apart. Now the finger-pointing is starting.

The Eagles would be wise to take control of this game early, put their cleats on the Redskins’ throat and not let up. If they get an early lead, the Redskins might just pack it in.

If all the dominos fall into place, we could be looking at the perfect Christmas week extravaganza. A full week of buildup before the Eagles and Cowboys meet on the last day of the season to decide the final playoff spot.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 18

The Daily Numbers: 6.5 hours, length of the new, shorter Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day under a deal OK’d by the groups and the city.
300,000 dollars, cap the city has placed on what it will pay toward the tab for the annual strut up Broad Street.
47,000 dollars, minimum that Mummers organizations likely will be left on the hook for, and that does not count the prize money that has already been eliminated by the city.
50,000 dollars, how much U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, D-1, is vowing to raise to help the Mummers pay their bills.
1 person nabbed and 1 still being sought by police in Norristown in what is being described as a “thrill killing,” basically an execution that took place during a robbery.
1,000 jobs being slashed by health insurer Aetna, 165 of them in the Philadelphia region.
10 percent fewer employees in the airline industry, as compared to this time 4 years ago, and 6 percent fewer that last year.
30 Chrysler production plans in the U.S. being idled for an additional 2 weeks over the holidays. The shutdown takes place Friday and will last a month.
2 years in jail for an electrical contractor in Philly who pleaded guilty to 99 criminal counts, including doing work on a labor leader’s home free of charge.
4.2 billion dollar dip in winnings for Atlantic City casinos in the first 11 months of the year, that’s down 6.7 percent.
18 researchers at the University of Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology being laid off.
2 straight wins for the Sixers, who rallied for to beat the Bucks last night, 93-88.
25 points for Lou Williams, who led the team with a huge effort off the bench.
16 straight wins for the Celtics, who escaped with a win in Atlanta last night, 88-85.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
I give up trying to figure out Donovan McNabb. The guy seems to have some kind “victim” complex. Whatever, it now appears as if both he and Andy Reid will be back for one more year. Let’s all adopt Al Davis philosophy: Just win, baby.
I Don’t Get It: A man who was the victim of a street robbery in Norristown complied with his attackers. They shot and killed him anyway. Police are referring to it as a “thrill killing.” Nice.
Today’s Upper: Big boost for our Merry Christmas Fund to help out the Salvation Army with their work yesterday. More than $4,400 poured in, pushing the total over $29,000. We still have a ways to go to hit our $50,000 goal.

Quote Box: “It’s just such an unfair thing to give them such short notice.”
-- James may of Ridley Township, who designs outfits for the Mummers, on the budget cuts imposed by the city on the annual march.

Mum's the word on all that no parade talk

New Year’s Day has been saved. At least for those who believe you cannot start a new year without a strut up Broad Street.

“Dem golden slippers,” along with all those feathers and sequins, will do their annual march. The Mummers and the city have signed off on a deal that will insure there will be a parade up Broad Street come Jan. 1, but it will be a different show. For starters, it will be a lot shorter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

All of this is the result of the financial squeeze the city finds itself in. The Nutter Administration informed the Mummers that they would cap the city’s contribution toward paying for the parade at $300,000. They also have axed the city’s contribution to the prize fund for the parade. Anything over $300,000 ceiling would then fall in the laps of the Mummers’ organizations.

To say there are some ruffled feathers out there would be an understatement. But that was the city’s final offer. That much was made clear during a final meeting between the two sides Wednesday afternoon.

Mummers organizations met last night and signed off on the deal. The best guess is that the tab for the shortened parade will come to at least $347,000 for police and cleanup. That means the Mummers are on the hook for $47,000, as well as the prize money.

But the truth is that they’re likely looking at a much larger deficit. Just the elaborate costumes of some of the groups – money the Mummers already have shelled out, can at times soar into the thousands of dollars.

The parade will still make its way from South Philly to City Hall, but the at times marathon event will now be confined to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In the meantime, the Mummers also are asking for the public’s help in solving the financial dilemma. They’ve set up a Web site,, where you can donate money.

Congressman Bob Brady, D-1, is vowing to raise the money to cover the difference. He’s saying he’ll come up with the bucks, or chip it in himself.

I realize opinions are split on the Mummers. But there is no arguing they are an icon of the region, right up there with the cheesesteak and Rocky ascending the steps of the Art Museum.

So the parade will be a bit shorter this year. The bottom line is that on New Year’s Day, Mummers will be strutting on Broad Street for the 108th time.

This might be a good time to seek ways to help out our fine, feathered friends. And here’s a suggestion. Eagles owner Jeff Lurie seems to get a bad rap among fans. Most look at him as something less than “one of us.” He’s too often depicted as an effete snob playing a game of fantasy football with his pal, Joe Banner.

So imagine if Lurie were to step forward and say the team would cover the difference to bail out the Mummers Parade. The guy would be a hero in this town.

Then again, cynics would point out that Lurie already owes the city a big chunk of money, a point the team disputes by the way.

And then again, maybe the sports teams would be wiser to step into the breech and fund the city libraries, many of which are being closed due to funding cuts.

In the meantime, dust off those feathers, folks. New Year’s Day is two weeks from today.

Brand new ballgame? Hardly

There is good news and bad news for Sixers fans today. First the good news: The Sixers won their second straight game under interim head coach Tony DiLeo, banishing the Bucks last night, 93-88.

That makes DiLeo 2-0 since taking over from the banished Maurice Cheeks. Hard to argue with that. So what’s the bad news? The Sixers likely lost Elton Brand in the process. The team’s big off-season free agent acquisition went down in a heap in a collision with Luc Mbah a Moute in the third quarter. Brand wound up with an ugly lump on his arm. The initial prognosis is a dislocated shoulder. Brand will have an MRI later today.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

After Brand’s exit, the Sixers seemd to take on the life they showed in their late-season spurt that pushed them into the playoffs last year. They ran the floor and looked nothing like the plodding, half-court bunch they have shown with Brand in the lineup.

Which brings us back to this question. Can the Sixers be the team they were last year with Brand as their focal point? We might be about to find out.

A cynic also might want to review the moves of Delco native and new Sixers boss Ed Stefanski. Let’s see, first he extended Maurice Cheeks; then he signed Andre Iguodala to a huge new deal, while trying to force him into the two guard slot for which he is ill-prepared. Then Stefanski went out and picked up Brand. At the time everyone liked it, saying he could be the low-post presence the team desperately needed. The problem is that Brand has not been much of a force inside, instead appearing instead to look for open jumpers. Stefanski then canned Cheeks when the team struggled to start the season in this new format.

If the Sixers suddenly reel off a series of wins while sporting the look of last year’s playoff squad, more than a few eyebrows likely will be raised.

Meet you at the mall

Remember we have a date tonight.
OK, it’s not exactly a date. But it is your chance to tell the editor of your local newspaper exactly what you think of him, and his newspaper.
Remember, it’s the holiday season. Be nice.
Here’s the details: I will be at Granite Run Mall Thursday night as part of a promotion we’re doing with the mall. I’ll be joined by two of my compatriots here at the Daily Times, featured columnists Gil Spencer from news and Jack McCaffery from sports.
More importantly, a representative from the Salvation Army in Chester will be on hand accepting donations to our Merry Christmas Fund. You can bring a check, made out to the Salvation Army, and drop it off at our stand.
We’ll be there from 7-8 p.m. on the upper level of the mall outside Boscov’s. See you then.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 17

The Daily Numbers: 2 suspects collared after leading police on a wild chase on I-95.
1 pound of pot police believe the suspects threw out of their vehicle during the chase.
1.89 million dollar budget adopted by Lower Chichester officials that will hold the line on taxes.
5.4 percent tax hike looming for residents in Marple. For the typical home owner, it will mean kicking in another $28 to the township coffers.
300,000 dollars, the cap the city of Philadelphia wants to put on costs associated with the annual New Year’s Day Mummers Parade. The two sides remain at an impasse, and the parade is in jeopardy.
108 years, how long the Comics, Fancies, and String Bands have been strutting up Broad Street, since 1901.
5 suspects whose fate is now being mulled by a jury on charges tied to an alleged plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dox.
40 burglaries in Montgomery County that are believed to be the work of one man, from Harleysville.
2 nurses’ aides in Philadelphia facing charges they ripped off residents at the Veterans Nursing Home where they worked.
12 pounds of marijuana seized by agents at Philadelphia International Airport.
17,700 people who have had their heat shut off heading into the winter season, according to the state Public Utilities Commission.
5.5 percent dip in Apple stock after the electronics giant’s boss, Steve Jobs, indicated he would not deliver a key speech at the annual Macworld Expo.
5 straight wins for the Flyers, who buried the Avalanche last night, 5-2.
3 year extension for Penn State football legend Joe Paterno. He’ll be 85 when the deal expires.
31 million dollar, 3 year contract for new Phils left-fielder Raul Ibanez, who will take Pat Burrell’s spot in the lineup.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s this simple, Eagles fans. The Birds need to win both of their remaining games, against the Redskins and Cowboys, and either the Bucs or Falcons must lose a game. Other than that, they aren’t going to the playoffs.
I Don’t Get It: A 3-year-old in Easton is at the center of a dispute between his parents and a local supermarket. They’re ticked that they will not display their child’s name on a birthday cake. And the moniker? Adolf Hitler Campbell. Nice.
Today’s Upper: We have one more weekend to slog through before we hit the holidays. If you’re finished your shopping, raise your hand. Thought so. See you at the mall this weekend. Consider it our part in stimulating the economy.

Quote Box: “You pick up a brochure for the city of Philadelphia and you’re going to find a picture of a Mummer on it.”
-- George Badey, the attorney representing the Mummers in their budget discussions with the city in hopes of salvaging this year’s strut.

The 4 worst words of winter

They are the four most dreaded words of winter.

Northern and western suburbs.

Where exactly these nefarious ‘burbs are exactly I have never been able to figure out. All I know is that they are magic when it comes to the way the local media treats their favorite winter topic – the weather.

If you had not noticed, we got a sloppy mix of rain, sleet and a little snow yesterday afternoon through last night.

It was not a crippling storm. But it was winter precipitation, which means it’s enough to lead the TV and radio news.

I cleared off my car last night. There was a small accumulation of snow. This morning I brushed off a little bit of ice on the windshield. Then I got in and drove to work, pretty much like any other rainy morning.

Yes, I went a little slower. If it was icy in spots, I didn’t notice it. The only rough spot I encountered was some debris from a downed tree that was sitting on Providence Road out in Edgmont. Apparently a downed tree and power lines also closed Bryn Mawr Avenue near Brookside Road in Newtown.

But it didn’t keep the TV folks from blathering all night about how “treacherous” it was out on the roads. It must have cleared up by this morning.

Eventually, I suppose we will get a substantial winter storm. We usually get a couple each year. I do not look forward to them. I dislike winter. In fact I hate it a little more each year.

I do not work for TV. I don’t get any great thrill out of trying first to get a staff into the office, then telling the story that does not really translate all that well to newspapers.

Maybe I’m just too old school.

In other words, don’t hold your breath waiting for me to be out there sticking a ruler in the snow. Or the glop that accumulated last night.

Pa.'s very own Lion King

When you arrive at your cubicle this morning, post this question for yourself.

Do you see yourself doing the same thing when you are 85?

No? Obviously you are not Joe Paterno.

The Lion King of Happy Valley inked a three-year contract extension that will keep him on the Nittany Lions sidelines until he’s 85.

Paterno turns 82 this week. He’s been hobbled this year by a broken hip, but shows no real signs of slowing down.

JoePa will lead the Lions into the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day for a date with USC after winning the Big 10 title.

Along the way he will continue to joust with Bobby Bowden of Florida State as the title-holder for most wins all-time by an NCAA football coach. Right now it’s Paterno on top of the heap.

Terms of the extension were not announced. It is believed Paterno earned $512,000 last year. He is one of the school’s biggest benefactors.

After some lean years, Paterno had the Lions back in the hunt for a national title this year. Their hopes were scuttled by a late-season loss at Iowa. But they sit at No. 6, and have a date with No. 5 USC.

JoePa is our very own version of the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going.

I can only hope that I will still be blogging when I’m 85.

On second thought, maybe that’s not such a great idea.

Turning the other Cheeks

This is a tale of two coaches.

Both head professional sports organizations that have been scuffling of late.

One’s team started the season slowly, which chafed both management and the fans, who had been expecting big things after a late-season push got them into the playoffs last year.

The other’s team also has been scuffling. Years of playoff berths have given way to struggles, and an absence from the post-season.

One coach offers the public little more than a smug arrogance that has become the face of the organization.

The other is the epitome of the “class act,” always ingratiating with both the fans and those pesky members of the media.

So which one lost his job?

That’s right. Mo Cheeks is on the unemployment line, while Andy Reid soldiers on as the Eagles head coach.

Cheeks met the media Tuesday for the first time since he was relieved of his duties by Delco native and GM Ed Stefanski.

You would think Cheeks might be bitter, might start pointing fingers after getting the ax just 23 games into the season.

If that’s the case, you don’t really know Mo Cheeks. He is simply one of the true class acts that have come through professional sports in this town.

This is not the first time Cheeks has been kicked to the curb in this town. Back when he was a player, the star point guard actually learned he had been traded from a member of the media.

Cheeks knows how these things work. The Sixers made the playoffs, then they added big-bucks free agent Elton Brand in the off-season. He got an extension from Stefanski, but Cheeks obviously knew the score.

No excuses. Now is the time to win.

When the Sixers failed to do that, it was time for Cheeks to go.

“This business is such that if you’re not winning, things happen,” Cheeks told the assembled media.

The public does not need to glance at the NBA standings to know that Mo Cheeks will always be a winner. Andy Reid can win all the playoff games he wants, but unless he changes his attitude he’ll never be revered in this town the way Cheeks is.

Maybe it’s time for the Eagles boss to turn the other Cheeks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ready for prime time, just not the final minute of the first half

The Eagles held up their end of the bargain. They easily dispatched the Browns on Monday Night Football, 30-10.

Here's where their playoff hopes stand. As you might expect, shey still have to win their final two games, against NFC East rivals the Redskins and Cowboys.

But they still need help. If either the Falcons or Bucs lose a game and the Eagles win out, the Birds are in.But one of them has to lose. Best bet is the Falcons falling in Minnesota Sunday.

Last night didn't hold much in the way of excitement, except for one thing.

OK, I'm getting greedy. Yes, the Eagles blew out the Browns, basicaly playing no cruise control.

But can someone explain to me this team's problem with the final minute of the first half. They did it again last night. Let's just say that the hurry-up two-minute offense is not this team's forte.

Donovan McNabb, who otherwise played another dynamite game, again was up to his old tricks in the final minute of the half. Hurry up? This team takes an eternity between plays. Bottom line. They wond up on the 1-yard line with no timeouts left. That probably brought a smile to Andy Reid's face. That meant he couldn't risk a run that got stuffed and not having enough time to get the field goal team onto the field.

So Andy passed - and Donovan threw it right into the hands of a Brown DB. And again, the Eagles came within a herculean Brian Westbrook effort of having a scoring opportunity blow up in their face at the end of the half, leading to points to the othe rteam.

Westbrook took the angle and ran the guy down.

But why is it this team still cannot run a two-minute drill 10 years into the Reid-McNabb era?

Last night it didn't matter. The next two weeks they likely aren't going to be that lucky.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prime time for Birds

The Eagles did not play yesterday, and they still lost.
While the ebirds were awaiting their prime-time matchup with the Browns tonight at the Linc, they likely were glued to their TV sets much of the day. They should have finished their Christmas shopping.
The Birds' Wish List went bust; they got exactly no help from two teams they needed to come through.
First, the Bucs did just about everything in their power to give a game to the Falcons, andc they still had to go to overtime to get the job done. Offered a gift interception from the Falcons in the final minute that put them inside the 10-yard line, the Bucs, who were playing without injured ex-Eagle Jeff Garcia, promptly threw it into reverse and had to settle for a tying field goal instead of the game-winning TD. Of course they went belly-up in overtime to lose.
Then last night the Giants forgot to show up for their game against the Cowboys in Big D.
So much for all that bickering the 'Boys supposedly were doing. Maybe they decided to take it out on the Giants instead.
T.O., Tony Romo and Jason Witten looked like one, big happy family.
Here's the bottom line: Even if the Eagles win their last three games, and that would start tonight against the Btrowns, they still are going to need help to get into the playoffs.
This is their best bet, and once again we likely will call upon an old friend.
The Falcons have to visit Minnesota next Sunday to play the Vikings and the Birds' former coach, Brad Childress.
Right now both the Falcons and Bucs are 9-5 and if they both win their final two games, they will take the two NCF wild-card slots.
Don't despair just yet. The Vikings wil need that game just as much as the Bucs. Minnesota continues to battle the Bears for the NFC North title. Neither won of them look likely to collect a wild-card bid.
Of course none of this means a thing if the Eagles don't win their final three.
And that start with winning tonight against the Browns. You wold think this one would be a cakewalk. Don't bet on it. Ever know this team to do anything the easy way?
Thought so.
By the way, this might be an especially good year to make the playoffs. Does anyone see a dominant team out there? How have the Giants looked the past two weeks? They suddenly have problems. Carolina just might be the best team in the NFC.
This just be a repeat of last year, when the Giants got hot at the right time and rolled into the playoffs.
Listening, Eagles?

Ruffled feathers

Finally today, something that screams "Philadelphia" is in jeopardy.
I wold guess that at some time during tonight's Monday Night Football game, you will see two things: a shot of them making cheesesteaks at either Pat's or Geno's in South Philly, and a shot of the Mummers.
They are emblems of the city, our signature food, and our signature party.
Here's the problem. That strut up Broad Street by all those guys in sequins and feathers is in jeopardy.
Swimming in a sea of red ink, the city has gone into slash-and-burn mode in terms of the budget. It's closing libraries, jobs, and services.
The Nutter administration also is cutting funds for the Mummers. It already has axed the prize money the city usually puts up. Now they want to cap the city's cost for the "golden slippers" at $300,000.
Talk about your ruffled feathers.
The mummers and city city continue talks to reach some kind of a deal.
Love it or hate it, the Mummers are emblematic of Philadelphia. They are part of our signature in the world.
Some people might think it would not be an entirely bad thing should they disappear. Don't count me among them.
No, they're not on a par with libraries. But if the city can foot the bill for that massive Phillies parade, they can do more for one of their institution.
And if you don't believe me, here's three things to look for in tonight's telecast of the Eagles-Browns game, which the entire nation wil be watching on ESPN.
You'll either see or hear "rocky" in the pre-game build-up. You'll see a bunch of people hanging out at Pat's or Geno's, with a typical South Philly guy working the grill, and you'll see a man dressed in more sequins and feathers than any burlesque show you've ever seen.
ItT is part of what we are as a city and a region. It would be a shame to lose it.

A really big 'shoe' for Bush

When President Bush snuck away for a secret pre-Christmas visit, it figured to be a really big show.
It turned into a really big "shoe."
An Iraqi journalist decided to hurl his shoe at the commander-in-chief. Bush adeptly ducked away from the first "incoming."
Here's what I don't understand. Somehow this guy managed to reload and fire his other show at the president.
Again Bush took the necessary evasive actions, but where was the security or Secret Service?
It's kind of hard to believe a person can throw a show directly at the head of the U.S. president, then calmly have time to reload with the other shoe.
Does anyone else think this does not compute?

Prime time for Birds

The Eagles did not play yesterday, and they still lost.
While the ebirds were awaiting their prime-time matchup with the Browns tonight at the Linc, they likely were glued to their TV sets much of the day. They should have finished their Christmas shopping.
The Birds' Wish List went bust; they got exactly no help from two teams they needed to come through.
First, the Bucs did just about everything in their power to give a game to the Falcons, andc they still had to go to overtime to get the job done. Offered a gift interception from the Falcons in the final minute that put them inside the 10-yard line, the Bucs, who were playing without injured ex-Eagle Jeff Garcia, promptly threw it into reverse and had to settle for a tying field goal instead of the game-winning TD. Of course they went belly-up in overtime to lose.
Then last night the Giants forgot to show up for their game against the Cowboys in Big D.
So much for all that bickering the 'Boys supposedly were doing. Maybe they decided to take it out on the Giants instead.
T.O., Tony Romo and Jason Witten looked like one, big happy family.
Here's the bottom line: Even if the Eagles win their last three games, and that would start tonight against the Btrowns, they still are going to need help to get into the playoffs.
This is their best bet, and once again we likely will call upon an old friend.
The Falcons have to visit Minnesota next Sunday to play the Vikings and the Birds' former coach, Brad Childress.
Right now both the Falcons and Bucs are 9-5 and if they both win their final two games, they will take the two NCF wild-card slots.
Don't despair just yet. The Vikings wil need that game just as much as the Bucs. Minnesota continues to battle the Bears for the NFC North title. Neither won of them look likely to collect a wild-card bid.
Of course none of this means a thing if the Eagles don't win their final three.
And that start with winning tonight against the Browns. You wold think this one would be a cakewalk. Don't bet on it. Ever know this team to do anything the easy way?
Thought so.
By the way, this might be an especially good year to make the playoffs. Does anyone see a dominant team out there? How have the Giants looked the past two weeks? They suddenly have problems. Carolina just might be the best team in the NFC.
This just be a repeat of last year, when the Giants got hot at the right time and rolled into the playoffs.
Listening, Eagles?

When President Bush snuck away for a secret pre-Christmas visit, it figured to be a really big show.
It turned into a really big "shoe."
An Iraqi journalist decided to hurl his shoe at the commander-in-chief. Bush adeptly ducked away from the first "incoming."
Here's what I don't understand. Somehow this guy managed to reload and fire his other show at the president.
Again Bush took the necessary evasive actions, but where was the security or Secret Service?
It's kind of hard to believe a person can throw a show directly at the head of the U.S. president, then calmly have time to reload with the other shoe.
Does anyone else think this does not compute?
Fnally today, something that screams "Philadelphia" is in jeopardy.
I wold guess that at some time during tonight's Monday Night Football game, you will see two things: a shot of them making cheesesteaks at either Pat's or Geno's in South Philly, and a shot of the Mummers.
They are emblems of the city, our signature food, and our signature party.
Here's the problem. That strut up Broad Street by all those guys in sequins and feathers is in jeopardy.
Swimming in a sea of red ink, the city has gone into slash-and-burn mode in terms of the budget. It's closing libraries, jobs, and services.
The Nutter administration also is cutting funds for the Mummers. It already has axed the prize money the city usually puts up. Now they want to cap the city's cost for the "golden slippers" at $300,000.
Talk about your ruffled feathers.
The mummers and city city continue talks to reach some kind of a deal.
Love it or hate it, the Mummers are emblematic of Philadelphia. They are part of our signature in the world.
Some people might think it would not be an entirely bad thing should they disappear. Don't count me among them.
No, they're not on a par with libraries. But if the city can foot the bill for that massive Phillies parade, they can do more for one of their institution.
And if you don't believe me, here's three things to look for in tonight's telecast of the Eagles-Browns game, which the entire nation wil be watching on ESPN.
You'll either see or hear "rocky" in the pre-game build-up. You'll see a bunch of people hanging out at Pat's or Geno's, with a typical South Philly guy working the grill, and you'll see a man dressed in more sequins and feathers than any burlesque show you've ever seen.
ItT is part of what we are as a city and a region. It wold be a shame to lose it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

We have an unusual late-season Sunday to savor this weekend: No Eagles game.

That's because the Birds are playing Monday night against the Browns.

But there are two games that should command lots of attention from Eagles fans Sunday. First at 1 there is the Bucs in Atlanta to play the Falcons. Break out your Bucs gear, folks. Yes, I know all about Joe Jurevicius. He's still running in my mind, too. But the Eagles need the Falcons to lose a game in these last three weeks to clear a path to the playoffs by winning their last three.

It's pretty simple. If the Falcons lose and the Eagles win their last three, the Eagles are in.

Then there's the Sunday night game. This one is delicious. The banged-up Giants are in Dallas to play the Cowboys, who simply are banging their heads together. Our old pal Terrell Owens is up to his old stuff, making noises that QB Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten are making up plays to exclude him. The Giants will be without star running back Brandon Jacobs, who will rest a cranky knee.

I like the Falcons to win at home, and the squabbling Cowboys to edge the Giants.

That, of course, brings us to Monday night. I wish I could say this was going to be a cake walk. I can't. This is the Eagles, remember? They're coached by Andy Reid.

It's expected to be unusually mild on Monday, game time weather will be more like a Phillies World Series game than a December football tilt.

I expect Andy Reid to fill the air with footballs just so he can prove everyone wrong about why the Eagles have won their last two games in impressive fashion.

It will be closer than it should, but expect the Eagles to survive.

Make it 27-17, Eagles.

Then it's on to D.C. and a date with the Redskins, and of course another week of controversy surrounding the Eagles offense.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 12

The Daily Numbers: 2 tours of Iraq for Rep.-elect Nick Miccarelli, the winner of the battle for the 162nd District seat. His Pa. Guard unit is headed back to Iraq in February. Be safe, soldier.
800 workers at Wells Fargo Auto Finance’s operations at the Wharf at Rivertown in Chester. The firm announced it would scale back operations, including layoffs, just before Christmas.
19, age of University of Pennsylvania student from Rose Valley who died after a fall from a dorm.
25 homicides for the city of Wilmington in 2008. That’s a record high. The latest fatal shooting took the life of a 20-year-old Chester resident, who was found shot to death on the front porch of a home on Concord Avenue.
13 to 20 years in jail, the sentence for millionaire killer John E. du Pont. He was rejected in a plea for parole.
400 million dollar dip in their endowment at Swarthmore College. They are putting in place a halt in hiring and other cuts in the wake of the economic downturn.
1,400 laptop computers, one for every student at Chester Community Charter School, through the non-profit group One-Laptop-Per-Child, and the school’s owner Vahan Gureghian.
446 to 615 million dollars, how much state hospitals say Pennsylvania owes them in a flap over a fund that helps doctors pay for medical malpractice insurance.
2 alarm blaze in a Bucks County firehouse after a car slammed into the facility in Hilltown Township. The driver of the car died in the crash.
50 patients being moved out of a Montgomery County personal care home after the state shut down Willow Crest Manor yesterday.
3 people nabbed by the feds during a drug raid targeting the high-grade heroin trade in Northeast Philadelphia yesterday.
83 warrants and 88 arrests served yesterday during another drug raid in the city, this one in the area of West Indiana Street.
220 million dollar expansion unveiled yesterday at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.
300,000 dollars in prize money the city usually gives the Mummers for prizes in their annual strut down Broad Street that won’t be coming this year. It’s another victim of budget cuts. Oh dem not-so-golden slippers.
35,000 jobs being axed by Bank of America as part of its merger with Merrill Lynch. Some of those will come in operations in both Philadelphia and Wilmington.
2 cent dip overnight in the average price of gas at the pump in the region. We’re now paying $1.80 a gallon, but it can be found in lots of places for as little as $1.69.
14 billion bailout that went up in smoke late last night as a deal to help the ailing auto industry ran off the road in the Senate.
4 goals down, where the Flyers were last night before roaring back and posting an unlikely 6-5 win over the Hurricanes in a shootout.
3 goals for Scottie Hartnell to lead the orange and black back from a 5-1 deficit.
18 points for Scottie Reynolds as Villanova edged Saint Joe’s in the latest classic edition of the Holy War at the Pavilion last night.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.There’s a new Public Enemy No. 1 in the Big Apple. And he wears Phillies pinstripes. Move over, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels just took the target off you and put it squarely on his broad shoulders. The Phillies ace went on a New York sports radio program yesterday and was led right down the path into doing something you usually avoid: Providing bulletin board material for your foes. Hamels was asked if he thought the Mets had choked the last two years. He kind of indicated that he did. So the announcer sought to make it clear, and Hamels walked right into it. He pronounced that yes, the Mets were chokers. Throw another log on that Mets-Phils rivalry.
I Don’t Get It: What exactly does Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich not get? He needs to step down. The sooner the better.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Nick Miccarelli. The newly elected state rep in the 162nd District is being deployed to Iraq with his Pa. National Guard Unit. It’s a more important mission than anything he would be doing in Harrisburg.

Quote Box: “For the past two years they’ve been choke artists.”
-- Phillies ace Cole Hamels, on a New York radio station yesterday, describing the Mets.

A true citizen-soldier

Nick Miccarelli emerged a winner in November after one of the toughest state Legislature races in memory.

The Republican went mano a mano with Democratic labor leader John DeFrancisco to fill the Pa. House of Representatives seat being vacated by longtime Rep. Ron Raymond. It was a bitter, nasty street fight.

Miccarelli was the guy still standing at the end of this bare-knuckles bout, and staked claim to the 162nd District seat, keeping it in Republican hands.

He might of thought his fighting days were over.

Not exactly.

Miccarelli will be taking a slight detour on the way to Harrisburg. By way of Iraq.

Miccarelli is a member of the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade of the Pennsylvania National Guard. His unit is being deployed to Iraq in February. It’s not Miccarelli’s first trip to the war zone. He’s already done one tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and he also did a stint in Kosovo back in 2003-04.

Miccarelli will be on hand with the rest of the state Legislature when he takes the oath on Jan. 6. But he will be wearing a different uniform come February.

Miccarelli made his military status clear during the campaign, and did not blink an eye when the call for the new deployment came in.

The state representative-elect embodies the idea of the citizen soldier.

He’s making sure that in his absence his office will be up and running, serving residents as normal.

Miccarelli, who is also a member of Ridley Park Borough Council, will take a leave of absence. He expects to return to Delaware County – and Harrisburg – some time in 2010.

He’s not the first member of the Legislature to be called to duty. Miccarelli was joined on a conference call yesterday by state Sen. John Pippy, R-Allegheny, who was called to active duty in the middle of his election campaign in 2003.

Democratic Delco Rep. Bryan Lentz, R-161, served in Iraq before being elected to the Legislature.

We really only ask one thing of Miccarelli at this point.

Return safely.

Godspeed, soldier.

A setback for Chester

The economic recovery taking place on the Chester waterfront has been impressive.

It started with the Wharf at Rivertown and its majestic restored PECO Power Station, spread to the other end of Route 291 and the opening of Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack, and got another jolt last week with the groundbreaking for the new soccer stadium in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge that will be home to the region’s new Major League Soccer franchise.

This week we even saw the renaissance spread into other areas of the city. The city saw its first major hotel take root in the city in more than three decades. The Best Western will be part of what is being referred to as “The Hub,” part of the University Crossing development on land owned by Widener University.

But Chester certainly is not averse to bad economic news as well. Heaven knows the city has faced its share of tough times.

With the nation’s economy in full meltdown, with the auto industry in peril, with banks shedding jobs like so many bad pennies, it was unrealistic to believe that the city would avoid a setback as well.

This week Chester’s economy, which has taken so many steps forward, took a step back.

Wells Fargo Auto Finance, one of the key tenants at the Wharf at Rivertown, said it would scale back its operations. And the timing could not be worse.

The move will come just two days before Christmas. Exactly how many people will lose their jobs, or whether some of them will be moved to different Wells Fargo operations, is still unclear. The bottom line is this. A substantial number of workers are going to lose their jobs days before Christmas.

Wells Fargo Auto Finance has been very good for Chester – and Delaware County. They are one of the county’s biggest employers, with more than 800 people at their operations on the city’s waterfront. They are a unit of Wells Fargo & Co.

Employees routinely took part in projects such as wrapping toys for needy kids at CityTeam Ministries in the city, and co-sponsoring charity galas that benefited Habitat for Humanity.

Chester certainly is no immune to downturns in the economy. The city has made huge steps in the past few years to set in motion a significant economic turnaround.

Our thoughts go out to the workers who will be losing their jobs.

But we remain confident that the city is on the right track.

T.O. up to his old tricks

You just have to love Terrell Owens. He’s the gift that keeps on giving.

T.O. has not been a factor around these parts since the now-infamous meltdown he suffered that led to his separation from the Eagles after their incredible 2004 run to the Super Bowl.

You remember the images, Owens doing crunches in the front yard of his Jersey mansion. The “next question” press conference with his agent Drew Rosenhaus. Priceless stuff.

T.O. has since moved on to greener pastures. But he hasn’t changed his act.

The extremely talented wide receiver (no one will convince me he was not the most valuable person on that Eagles team and the biggest reason they went from perennial contender to actual player in a Super Bowl) is up to his old tricks again.

He’s unhappy with his quarterback. This time it’s Dallas starter Tony Romo. Owens apparently believes that Romo and tight end Jason Witten are somehow conspiring to design plays that exclude him.

In the meantime, the Cowboys are sniping at each other. Owner Jerry Jones even took a few shots at running back Marion Jones, who sat out their last game with what some consider a minor injury.

All of this comes as the Eagles take dead aim at a playoff position, one they likely will have to climb over the Cowboys to attain.

The Cowboys face the Giants Sunday night. It’s hard to stomach, but you have to pull for the Giants.

In the meantime, the Eagles also have to go about their business, likely needing to run the table, winning their last three games.

And that last game, the Sunday after Christmas? That would be against those very Dallas Cowboys at the Linc.

How does this sound: Winner goes to the playoffs; loser goes home.

I’m sure we could muster a few more “season’s greetings” for our old pal T.O. and the Cowboys.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 11

The Daily Numbers: 74 bagged by hunters who took to Ridley Creek State Park yesterday in a controlled hunt.
204 hunters who took part. They’ll get another shot next Wednesday, when the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources holds a second hunt intended to thin the herd in the park.
35 years, how long it’s been since a major hotel opened in Chester. That ended yesterday, when the Best Western Hotel arrived at “The Hub,” part of the University Crossing development at 15th Street and Providence Avenue on the Widener campus.
1.8 million dollars in real estate taxes expected to be generated by the complex.
40 years since a minor earthquake rattled the region, including Darby Borough.
0 tax hike in the Eddystone budget. Not so lucky are residents of Rutledge, where the millage is going up to the tune of 31 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value.
18,140, where our annual Merry Christmas Fund stands after another solid day of donations. All proceeds go to the Salvation Army.
14 billion dollars in aid for the auto industry that passed the House last night. Locally, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, voted in favor of the bailout.
3 suspects arrested in the armed robberies that targeted students at Rowan University in South Jersey.
12, age of girl arrested after she released pepper spray at her Philadelphia elementary school, sickening several students and a teacher.
10, age of boy, a fourth-grader at Knapp Elementary School in Lansdale, now in critical condition in the hospital suffering from meningitis.
207 million jackpot now up for grabs in Friday night’s Mega Millions lottery. Tickets are only sold in New Jersey in this area.
260 workers at NFL Films in South Jersey who are fearing more job cuts in the wake of cutbacks announced by the NFL.
25 homicides this year in the city of Wilmington, setting a new record with every murder.
28 years, how long a veteran school principal worked in Bethlehem before his arrest and guilty plea for selling crystal meth from his office.
John Acerra will leave prison Feb. 28 after being granted parole.
54 percent jump in foreclosures in Pennsylvania in November as compared with the same month last year.
150,000 dollar prize being offered in a new fine arts competition announced by Temple University.
50,000 dollars cash bail posted by a Bucks County businessman charged with a Russian sex ring that targeted orphans. He’s free on electronic home monitoring.
60 bucks, amount collected by a South Jersey National Guard member in uniform outside a shopping center, supposedly for troops overseas. He was charged with theft by deception.
1, as in No. 1. That would be Sarah Palin. She might have lost along with John McCain in the presidential sweepstakes, but she’s Google’s No.
1 search entry for 2008.
7.8 percent dip in revenues reported by Atlantic City casinos in November compared to the year before.
10 straight wins for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who rolled over the Sixers last night.
27 points in the loss for Andre Iguodala, who was shifted back to the small forward spot in the starting lineup.
36 points put up by the Cavs in the third quarter to pull away.
29 points for Lebron James, the all-everything superstar for the Cavs.
6 points for the Sixers big off-season acquisition, Elton Brand, who was coming back from injury.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s a good thing the Eagles have revived their season, giving us at least three more weeks of excitement. Anyone notice what the Sixers are doing? Not good. And the Flyers? Has hockey season started yet? Call me in April.
I Don’t Get It: The Yankees are showering $161 million on CC Sabathia.
The Mets are dropping $31 million in the lap of Francisco Rodriguez. And both are building new stadiums that are being heavily funded by taxpayers. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the Phillies. Not only did they give us a world championship, yesterday they offered a helping hand to more than 30 local non-profits with their “Unsung Heroes” dinner. They raised $275,000, and that’s in addition to a previous $750,000 they give to their main charity, the ALS Foundation. Well done.

Quote Box: “In my point of view, it’s needless slaughter. People just want to go in and shoot deer that are habituated to people.”
-- Priscilla Cohn of Villanova, on deer hunt held yesterday in Ridley Creek State Park.

Another huge day for Chester

I have stated many times that one of the challenges the city of Chester faces is making sure that the economic rebirth that is so evident along the waterfront make its way across Route 291 and into other parts of town.

That’s why yesterday was so important.

There was Wendell Mayor Butler and a phalanx of other dignataries snipping the ribbon on another big development.

This time the city was welcoming its first new major hotel in more than three decades.

It’s part of “The Hub,” a $50 million development known as University Crossing at 15th Street and Providence Avenue. It’s on property owned by Widener University.

It continues an impressive series of economic ventures in the city. Of course there was the Wharf at Rivertown, Harrah’s Casino & Racetrack, and now the soccer stadium under the Commodore Barry Bridge. But all those hugged the waterfront.

This one is smack dab in the middle of the city. The 60-room Best Western will soon be joined by a bank, a restaurant, and a 7-Eleven convenience store.

What’s more, it will provide still another infusion of cash into the city coffers. The site owned by Widener used to be tax-exempt. It will now generate $1.8 million in real estate taxes, $800,000 in earned income taxes and $600,000 in business privilege taxes.

The city certainly still has its challenges. Too many of its neighborhoods remain unsafe. Its troubled school system remains very much a work in progress.

But the city’s turnaround is unmistakable. And undeniable.

Mayor Butler may have said it best at the stadium groundbreaking.

“Chester is coming back,” he proclaimed. And it’s not just on the waterfront anymore.

Bailing out the Big 3

It looks like the auto industry will be saved – from themselves.

The House of Representatives stepped up to the plate last night and decided to throw $14 billion out there to save the wallowing industry from a sea of red ink.

Locally, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, backed the measure, saying the move was needed to prevent the imminent collapse of the domestic auto industry, while also demanding strict accountability measures be put into place.

But it’s not a done deal yet. While the House voted 237-170 in favor, the measure now goes to the Senate, where it likely faces a much rockier road. Critics in the Senate say the bailout fails to fix the problem, giving the money without demanding the kind of restructuring the industry needs to survive.

For his part, Sestak said the move was necessary to prevent an even more protracted recession, one that would be felt locally with still more job losses.

Look for the Senate to blast the program up and down – then pass it or a similar version.

There really isn’t any alternative, unless you happen to subscribe to the belief that we should simply let the automakers declare bankruptcy.

Here’s one way to look at the problem: The auto industry is asking Congress (read taxpayers) to do something that the banks have already deemed to be too risky.

First it was housing, then it was banks and other financial firms. Now it’s the auto industry. All of them limping into Washington, D.C., with their hand out.

Where do you draw the line?

A Brand new ballgame?

A few random sports thoughts as we wait for to see whether Andy Reid will revert to the pass-happy mad offensive scientist against the Browns Monday night:

Mo Cheeks juggled his lineup last night. Apparently the Sixers agree with just about everyone else who has watched the team struggle at the start of the season that Andre Iguodala is never going to be a two guard. Willie Green was inserted into the starting lineup last night, shifting “Iggy” back to his more natural three spot at small forward. He responded with 27 points. Not that it really mattered. After hanging tough, the Cavs, led by LeBron James, dropped 36 points on the Sixers in the third period to win going away, 101-93. And yes, those were boos you heard raining down on Elton Brand, who returned from injury and managed just 6 points on 3-of-11 shooting, while grabbing 11 boards.

The Phils have yet to pull the trigger on any big deals at baseball’s winter meetings in Las Vegas, but in the spirit of the town they are doing more than their share of gambling. They are betting they can win a stare-down with veteran Jamie Moyer. He wants two years guaranteed. The team is looking for something more akin to a one-year deal with an option. Moyer knows he has the fans in his corner – up to a point.
The Phils also might be clearing a path for the exit of another very popular player, backup catcher Chris Coste. The guy who penned “The 33-Year-Old Rookie” is going to have some competition for that backup receiver slot. The team sent catching prospect Jason Jaramillo to the Pirates for catcher Ronny Paulino. The move is being seen as confirming what many already thought, that Lou Marson is the team’s catcher of the future. It also means the popular Coste will face a challenge in camp from Paulino.

Can someone explain sports and money to me? On second thought, don’t bother, it only gives me a headache. The Mets and Yankees, as usual, have been showering big bucks on high-profile free agents. The Yankees dropped a cool $161 million on the top free agent on the market, starting pitcher CC Sabathia. You read that right, $161,000,000, with six zeroes. The Mets aren’t exactly slouches either. They needed a closer. They went and got one, dropping $37 milllion in the lap of Francisco Rodriguez.
All of which is fine, except for one thing. Both teams are in the process of moving into new stadiums. And both of them are getting a huge chunk of public funds to do it.
Some day, someone will explain to me how this works.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 10

The Daily Numbers: 2 years to the day that charges were filed in the case. That’s when Mia Sardella will be back in court on Jan. 22 to be sentenced after her no-contest plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of her newborn baby.
6.2 acre parcel in Haverford Township that used to be home to the Swell bubble gum factory. Now it’s the source of controversy in the case with the township voting to condemn the property for use as a township center or community rec center.
6,657 dollars, the amount the chief of police in Chester Township is charged with stealing for cashing another man’s worker’s compensation check. Chief Tim Wilson has now filed motions seeking to have the charges dismissed.
2.5 to 5 years in jail for a Chester woman in a kidnapping plot. LaQuandra Toodles had been a fugitive for several years before authorities caught up with her.
2 controlled deer hunts set for Ridley Creek State Park in Edgmont. They will be held today and next Wednesday.
10 suspects on Chester’s Most Wanted list who are now in police custody. A suspect in the assault of a 4-year-old boy was busted Tuesday. There are 9 more suspects still on the loose.
15, age of student at Pottstown High School who has been charged with plotting a Columbine-style attack on the school after the winter holiday.
35 years since a new hotel has opened its doors in Chester. That will end today when Best Western opens its 60-room facility in the University Crossing development near Widener. It’s a $50 million projected that is expected to bring in $1.8 million in taxes to the beleaguered city
40 degree difference in the temperature between Monday and today. It was 20 early Monday. Today it’s 60 in the rain. Bet on everyone being sick just in time for the holidays.
1 person killed and another pistol-whipped in the Tioga section of Philadelphia overnight in what police are saying was a drug deal gone bad.
1 person killed when an SUV struck and killed a woman in Bristol, Bucks County. The driver of the SUV stopped, got out, then got back in and sped off.
1.5 billion dollar hole in the Pennsylvania state budget. Gov. Ed Rendell is planning on spending cuts and money from state preserves to avoid a tax hike.
36 percent of Pennsylvania 11th-graders who scored sufficiently on the state’s new science test. Two-thirds of those who took the test flunked.
5 to 10 year prison sentence for former Penn prof charged with beating his wife to death in his Montgomery County home. He appealed to the judge to lessen the sentence. The judge turned him down.
70, age of woman who gave birth to her first baby in India after undergoing fertility treatments.
150 staff jobs being eliminated by the NFL in its New York offices. Yeah, times are tough all over. Shame on the NFL.
2.8 percent cost of living increases about to be included in state legislators’ paychecks. They can’t actually turn it down. Instead the pols have to cut a check to the Pa. Treasury if they want to give the money back. Only in Pennsylvania.
9 wins against 4 losses for the Atlanta Falcons. They stand in the way of the Eagles’ path to a wild-card playoff slot. That’s why you need to cheer for the Bucs this weekend. They’re playing the Falcons.
23 points and 12 rebounds for Dante Cunningham for Villanova against No. 6 Texas last night. It wasn’t enough as the ‘Cats fell, 67-58.
14 goals for Simon Gagne this year. He lit the lamp in the third period to power the Flyers to a 4-3 win over the Isles.
2 year extension on his deal to manage the Phillies for skipper Charlie Manuel.
4:15 start time for the Eagles-Redskins game in D.C. on Dec. 21. That’s been changed from 1 p.m. for TV.
2 years guaranteed, what pitcher Jamie Moyer wants from the Phillies. They’re not thrilled about offering the 46-year-old a 2-year deal.
37 million dollar deal for closer Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets. Goodbye Billy Wagner.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.What exactly do you think the fan reaction will be Monday night if the Eagles first play against the Browns is an incomplete pass? Just run the ball, Andy.
I Don’t Get It: Another school plot has been foiled. This time it was in Pottstown, and it involved a 15-year-old who apparently stole a cache of guns from his father, and plotted to stage an attack on students and teachers at the school. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: 60 degrees on Dec. 10. Joy to the World!

Quote Box: “The conduct would make (Abraham) Lincoln roll over in his grave.”
-- U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, in announcing corruption charges against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for allegedly trying to sell the appointment to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Mia Sardella's day in court

The long, sad drama of the baby in the trunk is over. Almost.

Mia Sardella, the young Drexel Hill woman who gave birth to a baby, then stuffed its body in a duffel bag and placed it in the trunk of her car, entered a plea in the case Tuesday.

Sardella entered a no-contest plea to charges of involuntary manslaughter, abuse of a corpse, and concealing the death of a child.

When charges were first announced in the case, Sardella was hit with a first-degree murder charge after the county medical examiner ruled the case a homicide, that the baby had been born alive and the infant’s death was caused by asphyxiation. That charge was eventually withdrawn by the D.A.’s office and the third-degree charge put in its place. The plea deal takes the third-degree murder charge off the table.

The legal semantics aside, Sardella is admitting her role in the death of her baby.

If that were not controversial enough, the case has been a lightning rod for the way the investigation was handled, the amount of time taken to file charges in the case, and the fact that Sardella remained free on electronic home monitoring for most of that time.

Critics insist Sardella’s family – her grandfather is a well-known CEO of a financial firm – managed to get her a better version of justice than perhaps someone of lesser means would receive. Even this newspaper has been accused of “tiptoeing” around the case because of the family’s so-called “connections.”

In the end, none of that seemed to help Mia Sardella.

She very likely will be sentenced to at least some jail time. In a similar case, where a young woman in Ridley gave birth, then placed the baby in a duffel bag and hung it out the window, a similar plea was entered to a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

The woman was sentenced to eight to 23 months in prison. Of that, 60 days were served on weekends, with the remaining six months on home monitoring.

Mia Sardella is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 22.

Ironically, that’s two years to the day that charges were filed in this case.

The wheels of justice do indeed turn slowly. But they don’t stop. They probably don’t always work to everyone’s satisfaction, but justice has been served in the case of Mia Sardella.

The hunt is on

I call it my morning dance.

I like to get to the office early. This time of year, that means driving to work in the dark. Every day I traverse these darkened roads with a wary eye. Because I know I am not alone.

It’s just me and the deer. It happened again this morning. There it was, standing there next to the road. The eyes always give them away. They usually flash in your headlights, if you’re lucky giving you enough warning to slow down and navigate around it, hopefully not spooking it into leaping right out in front of you. They really are beautiful animals. It’s just that there are too many of them.

I have been making this drive for more than 28 years, and I have lost count of the number of times I have had to swerve to avert “Bambi” and her pals as they cavort along the roads. Incredibly, I have yet to hit one of them. Neither have I run off the road or struck another car while taking evasive measures.

A lot of people have not been that lucky. The evidence of these instances also can be seen littering the sides of the road in many parts of the county. Dead deer, struck by cars.

These collisions do a number on your car, and have been known to be fatal. Deer have been known to go right through a car’s windshield, sometimes with deadly results.

Today the herd that calls Ridley Creek State Park home will be thinned a bit. They will hold a controlled hunt in the park. Today and again next Wednesday, park officials will open the park only to hunters.

Another hunt is scheduled to be held in the woods surrounding Swarthmore College later this year.

The hunts are controversial items. Officials talk about the damage done by too many deer on the woodlands, saying plant growth is eliminated and much of the natural habitat is ravaged by the voracious critters.

Opponents of the hunt say insist it is an ineffective way of controlling the deer population.

One of the factors no doubt is that with more and more development, there are fewer and fewer places for deer to roam in their natural habitat. I once had someone told me that one of the worst things to ever happen to the deer population in Delaware County was the construction of the Blue Route, which cut off much of their natural migration paths.

All I know is that there seems to be too many of them. So far I have managed to dodge them in my morning commute.

I don’t know how long my luck will last. I’m not a hunter. It’s just not my thing. I don’t necessarily like the idea of shooting the deer. But I’m not adamantly opposed to it either.

What I am opposed to is an unscheduled meeting with Bambi on the road some morning.

Philly and Tampa, linked by sports

What is it about Tampa that so entwines our fortunes when it comes to pro sports?

It might be painful for Eagles fans who still grimace at the vision of Joe Jurevicius (is he still running?) cavorting untouched down the sideline, or of Ronde Barber returning that interception for a game-sealing killer TD, but we’re about to become Bucs’ fans.

At least for this weekend. Here’s why.

The Eagles have miraculously resuscitated their season and are back in the playoff hunt. But as of right now, they need some help, in addition to running the table by winning their last three games.

That’s where Tampa comes in. If you figure that Carolina, by virtue of their big win over the Bucs Monday night, has the inside track to win the NFC South, it also looks like a pretty safe bet that Tampa, at 9-4, is likely to snag one of the two wild-card spots. That leaves the Eagles, Falcons, Cowboys, Redskins and Bears doing mortal combat for that final playoff spot.

The Falcons just happen to host Tampa this week. You want the Bucs to win. If they do, all the Eagles have to do is win their final three games and they’re in the playoffs. But they need Atlanta to lose at least one more game. They can take care of the Redskins and Cowboys themselves, since they face them in the final two weeks of theseason. But someone has to beat the Falcons. So let’s get behind the Bucs.

After all, we kind of owe them one. It was just a few months ago we were parading down Broad Street after the Phils broke our long championship drought by defeating the Rays in the World Series.

Philly and Tampa. Our pro sports worlds just seem to be forever locked.

And if you really believe in karma, how about this final item. The Super Bowl will be played this year on Feb. 1. Guess where? That’s right, Tampa.

Ya gotta believe!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 9

The Daily Numbers: 5 votes for late Marcus Hook great Mickey Vernon in the voting by the Veterans Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He needed 9. It’s their loss.
7 All-Star appearances and 2 AL batting titles for Vernon in a career that spanned 4 decades.
1 more opportunity for the public to sound off about the proposed Delaware County budget. County Council will vote on the spending plan – which does not hike taxes – after the hearing this morning in Media.
18, age of senior at Strath Haven High School charged with indecent assault against a female student in his car in the school parking lot.
22 months and change since a baby was discovered in a duffel bag in the trunk of a car in Drexel Hill. Mia Sardella will appear in a Delaware County courtroom to face trial in the case. She could enter a plea deal in the controversial case.
3 people now charged in connection with the robbery of a couple as they arrived at their Lenni Road home in Middletown. Authorities in both Philly and Delco now have 5 suspects in custody tied to a string of home invasions they believe targeted Asian merchants who they followed home from their place of business.
5,720 dollars that poured into the Daily Times Merry Christmas Fund over the weekend. The total is now more than $15,000. All funds benefit the Salvation Army.
30 inch water main that burst overnight, sending a cascade of water and mud into homes on the 2100 block of North Fourth Street in North Philadelphia. It also left a gaping hole in the street.
1 billion dollar deficit in Philadelphia, which is getting more bleak every day. Mayor Michael Nutter is now considering even more cuts in the wake of continued declines in both real estate transfer tax collections and the city’s pension funds.
70 million dollar payout for a North Jersey couple who hit the Mega Millions lottery jackpot from last summer. They don’t speak English. But the smile on their faces said it all.
1.45 a gallon, price of gasoline at some stations in South Jersey.
1 person killed in the latest in a series of arson fires reported in Coatesville, Chester County. It’s the 4th suspected arson in 3 days.
2 University of Delaware students robbed and pistol-whipped after they were confronted on Haines Street in Newark about 1:45 a.m. Sunday.
5 feet, 8 inches tall and 140 pounds, physique of car theft suspect who climbed through hole in ceiling and through ductwork to escape from police headquarters in Philadelphia.
75 million dollars in tax credits granted last year, while only 18 million was returned to the state. A state rep is challenging the program.
20, age of the suspect and the victim after a Kutztown University female student was dragged after she grabbed onto the car of a male who is not a student in a school parking lot. She’s hospitalized with head injuries. He’s charged with simple assault and recklessly endangering.
5.3 million dollars, what a Bucks County businessman who is charged in connection with a Russian sex ring involving orphans is believed to be worth.
185,000 jobs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that would be lost should the Big 3 automakers fail, according to a new study.
8,000 jobs being shed by Sony. That’s 5 percent of the electronics giant’s workforce.
4 wins again 9 losses for the Cleveland Browns, who arrive at the Linc for a Monday night contest against the Eagles.
14 point favorite, that’s what the oddsmakers have made the Eagles over the Browns.
18 touchdowns, the Eagles single-season touchdown record, held by Steve Van Buren in 1945. Brian Westbrook is closing in on it, tied for the league lead with 14 scores. Can you say MVP?
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Let’s face it. Andy Reid doesn’t get it, and he never will. We’re not going to convince Reid about the merits of running the ball. He’s too set in his ways. Yesterday he insisted it was the weather, not any change of philosophy, that led to a record number of carries for Brian Westbrook, and a win against the Giants. I think sometimes he does just to aggravate the media, not realizing he’s also sticking it to the fans at the same time.
I Don’t Get It: A family in Levittown with an elaborate Christmas display in their yard awoke recently to find their $350 display gone. It doesn’t get any lower than that.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the officers who managed to tranquilize a coyote who had wandered into a Sears store in Nazareth and return it to the wild. No word on whether he was there for the sale items.

Quote Box: “Forget the statistics, which are good enough for the Hall of Fame. It goes beyond that. He was such a quality guy. This doesn’t diminish his career.”
-- Jim Vankoski, on the voting that denied a spot in the Hall of Fame to Delco legend Mickey Vernon.

He's Hall of Fame in our book

Mickey Vernon is not going to the Hall of Fame.

The late Marcus Hook great yesterday came four votes shy in the voting by the Veterans Committee. The only person to gain admittance was former Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon, who was named on the requisite 75 percent of the voting ballots.

Ironically, one of those who often spoke in favor of Gordon being inducted into the Hall of Fame was Vernon. His good friend Jim Vankoski noted that on Vernon’s collection of home videos, he’s often heard extolling Gordon. “Now there’s a guy who should be in the Hall of Fame,” Vernon often said.

Mickey Vernon’s career spanned four decades, from 1939 to 1960. He was a seven-time All-Star and two-time American League batting champion. Unfortunately, he toiled most of those years with the Washington Senators.

Vernon was one of nine players on the ballot for those who played prior to 1943. No players from the post-1943 era made it, including former Phillies great Dick Allen.

Vernon was named on five of the 12 ballots. He still has two more opportunities, when the Veterans Committee votes again in 2013 and 2014.

So Mickey Vernon is not going to Cooperstown, at least not yet.

But he’s in a much more important place. Vernon was a Hall of Fame human being.

On that vote, the decision was unanimous. Delaware County should take great pride in the athletes it has produced. At the top of that list would be “The Gentleman First Baseman.”

Vernon would be the last to complain that he did not receive the votes necessary to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. That’s just the way he was. Instead he more likely would spend that time talking about how much Gordon deserved the nod.

That’s just the way Vernon was. They don’t make him like that anymore.

He’ll always be Hall of Fame in our book.

Bailing out the Big 3

It’s looking more and more like the ailing auto industry is going to get its bailout – or at least some version of one.

Word coming out of D.C. is that a deal could be in place as early as Wednesday to help the staggering auto industry to the tune of $15 billion and place it under the auspices of a federal “car czar.”

No word yet on any similar plan for the newspaper industry. In case you haven’t heard, we’re in bad shape ourselves. Yesterday the Tribune Co., which publishes the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune, in addition to the Allentown Morning Call in this region, filed for bankruptcy.

There are a lot of people who question the merits of Uncle Sam constantly riding to the rescue of failing industry. Some go so far as to say we should let the auto industry fail. Let them file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy just like any other struggling endeavor.

They might want to consider this. A study released yesterday by the Economic Policy Institute indicated Pennsylvania would lose 120,000 jobs if the Big Three automakers fail. Add to that total another 65,000 jobs in New Jersey.

That’s the thing about the auto industry and America’s love affair with the car. Its tentacles find their way into just about every aspect of our economy.

Congress likely is going to have to hold their nose and vote for this package.

Then maybe they can get to work on the newspaper industry.

Reid runs around the question

Talk about a lot of wind.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid was back in front of a microphone yesterday. He’s smiling again. Two fairly impressive wins in a row, including one over the 11-1 defending Super Bowl champions, will do that to you.

It has occurred to fans that one of the keys to those two wins was a seeming shift in the Eagles offense, with the team finally paying more than lip service to one crucial facet of the game – running the football.

They sent Brian Westbrook hurtling into the line 33 times on Sunday at the Meadowlands. He rushed for 131 yards.

So you think maybe Coach Reid has turned a corner in his pass-happy offensive philosophy? Think again.

Reid insists Sunday’s play-calling had more to do with the blustery weather, with wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour, than any new way of thinking at the run vs. the pass in his bizarre version of “effective balance” when it comes to the Birds’ play-calling.

The Eagles have three games left. They likely will need to win all three to snag one of the two Wild Card slots, and even with that they will probably need some help.

Reid could help a little himself by not reverting to his pass-happy ways.

Or we could just put bad weather on our Christmas wish list. Maybe we could ask Mother Nature to keep buffeting us with 50 mph wind gusts every time the Eagles take the field.

And the requisite blasts of hot air from their coach the next day.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 8

The Daily Numbers: 12,000 dollar reward for information on the suspects in the home-invasion beating and murder of Hoa Pham of Drexel Hill.
24 homicides in the county in 2008 that remain unsolved, with no suspect in custody.
5 juveniles who have been charged with breaking into Toby Farms Elementary School in Chester Township and ripping off laptop computers.
27 people facing charges after a recent DUI checkpoint in Brookhaven.
14 years, how long attorney H. Beatty Chadwick has been in Delaware County Prison on a civil contempt violation. It’s believed to be an American record. He is again seeking a furlough to spend the holidays with his family.
4 percent tax hike in the works in Newtown Township to pay for a 3 percent hike in expenditures. The average home owner will be on the hook for another $217.25 a year.
225,000 dollar cash bail for Henry Paris III, the Drexel Hill father charged with the assault on his 3-month-old son.
13 million dollars less, this year’s Delaware County budget as opposed to last year. Council is trying to avoid a tax hike.
2 years, how long the South Street Bridge in Philadelphia will be closed, starting today. The crumbling structure will be replaced to the tune of $67 million.
9 local shopping malls looking to collect 25,000 sets of pajamas for kids in area shelters.
24 homicides so far this year in Wilmington, setting a new record.
2 Purple Hearts for a soldier from Southampton, Bucks County, who was injured in both of his tours of Iraq.
10,000 dollar reward for information in the hit-run that left Philadelphia journalist Brian Hickey in a coma in South Jersey.
34, age of man who confronted Philadelphia police with a BB gun over the weekend. He was shot and killed. Authorities now believe it was a case of “suicide by cop.”
1 person killed and 1 firefighter injured when a cabin exploded in Gap, Lancaster County.
22 cent decline in the price of gas over the past two weeks.
33 carries for 131 yards for Brian Westbrook to lead the Eagles over the Giants yesterday.
72 yards on 6 catches for Westbrook, who also scored 2 TDs.
2 blocked field goals suffered by the Birds, including one disastrous effort on the last play of the first half that was returned for a TD by the Giants.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.The Eagles are still alive. Not only did they post an improbable win over the Giants, but both the Cowboys and Redskins complied by losing yesterday. The Birds still likely have to run the table to get into the playoffs, but that prospect looks a lot more doable today than it did on Saturday.
I Don’t Get It: Authorities confirmed on Friday what a lot of other people have been thinking in this sudden spike in home invasions. Asian merchants are being targeted because of the common belief that they keep large amounts of cash in their homes. They are being followed home from their places of business. Let’s be careful out there.
Today’s Upper: The Loaves and Fishes Pantry in Prospect Park is one of those places that you sort of take for granted until you need it. These days more people than ever need it. They are the epitome of “holiday miracles.”

Quote Box: “We are committed to providing community safety.”
-- Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood, after a meeting with members of the Vietnamese community in the wake of a brutal home invasion to review safety issues.

Another day of infamy

Dec. 8, 1980. It’s one of those dates that stays with you.

Or at least it does if you grew up in the ‘60s. It comes one day after the “Day of Infamy,” which marks the surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor that ushered the United States into World War II.

For music fans, Dec. 8 is also something of a day of infamy. It’s the day the music died. Again.

I was watching a Monday Night Football game when outrageous broadcaster Howard Cosell broke in with the news.

John Lennon, one of the members of the Beatles who along with Paul McCartney formed one of the most popular song-writing duos in history, had been shot as he entered The Dakota, the apartment building off Central Park where he lived in New York City. He died at a local hospital.

The man who asked us to “Imagine,” and that “All You Need is Love,” was taken away in an instant by crazed stalker wielding a handgun.

Years later my wife and I took a weekend trip to New York City. It was my Christmas gift to her. I was taking her to see her favorite hockey player, Eric Lindros, who was then plying his trade for the New York Rangers after a less-then-amicable split with the Flyers.

But there was something else I wanted to do that weekend. So after we visited Rockefeller Center and watched the folks skating on the outdoor rink, we walked past the Plaza Hotel and into Central Park. It took awhile, but eventually we came to the spot now known as “Strawberry Fields.” We stood at the marker etched with the single word, “Imagine,” in silence with a few other people, most of whom I noticed were about our age.

But there was still one other thing I wanted to do. So we walked across the street in search of The Dakota. It’s one of those building you kind of know the instant you see it. The Dakota is an eerie-looking Gothic structure. I didn’t want to intrude, but I did want to see it for myself.

I still wasn’t completely sure it was the place until the doorman with the topcoat appeared out front. There it was clearly marked on his chest: The Dakota.

I didn’t say a word, I just sort of stood there in silence.

I was stunned in just the short time we were standing there how many people came up and took pictures. One young couple actually asked the doorman to snap a shot of them standing in the doorway where Lennon was slain.

Not me. I just stood off at a distance and wondered if these kids knew what had been lost at this spot.

I guess I was as guilty as anyone else, turning it into a tourist spot. I was tempted to ask the doorman how often this happened, but I didn’t.

My wife was probably a bigger Beatles fan than I was. I’m sure she was mortified. We didn’t say a word. We simply stood there for awhile, then headed back into the park, past Strawberry Fields and eventually back to a world that was a much less better place because of what happened in the doorway to that building so many years before.

Fall-ing for winter

What happened to fall?

When I climbed in the car this morning, that handy-dandy little temperature gauge on the dashboard informed me it was a bone-chilling 19 degrees?

Supposedly, winter does not officially arrive for another two weeks. Could have fooled me.

I hope this is not a sign of things to come.

Each year I find myself hating winter just a little more. Four months of teeth chattering frigid conditions. Swell.

Yeah, I know it’s the holidays and all. Spare me. It’s cold. I hate it. I’ll sing “Joy to the World” when I can break out the shorts again next spring.

Birds still alive - and running!

You can stop throwing dirt on the Eagles. They’re not dead yet.

Not only did the Birds stun the New York Giants Sunday, 20-014, but they also got help from just about everyone else.

Tony Romo did his part by throwing a crucial interception in the last minute against the Steelers, which was promptly returned for the winning touchdown. The ‘Boys coughed up a 10-point lead in the second half to fall, 20-13.

Then last night the Redskins did their part, falling to the Ravens, 24-10. The Falcons also lost yesterday.

The Eagles won because they did something the fans have been begging them to do for months. OK, years. Seemingly every year of the pass-happy Andy Reid regime.

They ran the ball. Part of it no doubt was because howling winds made throwing the ball an adventure all day in a chilled Meadowlands.

But the Eagles managed to turn the tables on the Giants, who also were dealing with the aftermath of a week roiled by the Plaxico Burress debacle.

The game was almost a reversal of the first time the two played back in November at the Linc. Back then it was the Giants who run the ball down the Eagles’ throats, controlling the clock, and the game.

This time turnabout was fair play. The Eagles defense took away much of the vaunted Giants’ ground game, no doubt helped in no small part by an injury to Brandon Jacobs, and then watched as Eli Manning faltered in trying to rally the Giants to a win.

The 10 days off since the Thanksgiving win over the Cards no doubt helped Brian Westbrook. And it showed. Westbrook lugged the ball 33 times for 131 yards. He added another 72 yards on six pass receptions.

Bottom line? Whatever the reason, Andy Reid stuck with that “effective balance” he was talking about last week. Even though some of the Birds’ early runs got stuffed, Reid did not bail on the rushing game. And it paid off.

Yes, the Eagles still likely have to run the table to make the playoffs. But they are alive – and kicking.

Or maybe that would be better said alive – and running.

This team will go as far as Brian Westbrook carries them. Now it’s on to a Monday night matchup with the Browns at the Linc, then a game at the Redskins and a Christmas weekend finale at the Linca against the Cowboys.

Why do I get the feeling that the season will boil down to that last game. A “win-and-in” scenario?

Tell Santa I know what I want for Christmas.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Forget Plaxico Burress.

Forget Donovan McNabb.

Forget Brian Westbroook.

This one is simple. Can the Eagles stop the Giants' running game. If they can, they have a shot (sorry, Plaxico) at the upset. If not, they're likely to get smoked again, with the Giants three-headed monster of a ground game simply ramming the ball right down their throat as they did the last time.

The Eagles need to win to keep their season alive. It says here they die in North Jersey.

Make it Giants 29, Eagles 13.

Bring on the Kevin Kolb era.

Friday, December 5, 2008

An epidemic of home invasions

Things continue to get meaner out on the mean streets of Delaware County.

The home invasion epidemic is spreading. Police in Marple are investigating two incidents that occurred in a span of 72 hours Monday and Wednesday nights.

Now Collingdale police say they are probing a third incident, which occurred overnight.

A common theme seems to run through all three incidents. In all three cases, Asian business persons seem to have been targeted, followed to their homes and then attacked.

In the two Marple incidents, the merchants were followed back to their Marple homes from their businesses in West Philadelphia and Upper Darby. Now in Collingdale, an Asian merchant was attacked in his home, which is over his store on MacDade Boulevard.

Police this morning are teaming to work on several leads, and may be getting a break in Philadelphia. Three suspects are being questioned and authorities believe they could be involved in as many as six home invasions. State police and the FBI have joined in the investigation. And Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green is expected to address the situation later today.

So far, there have been no serious injuries in the three Delco incidents. That’s if you think having your home invaded and ransacked by armed thugs does not leave some serious scars, both on those directly attacked and the neighborhoods whose peace has been shattered.

Let’s hope police get these thugs off the streets before one of these incidents ends in tragedy.

Another outrage in Upper Darby

Mike Chitwood has another candidate for his infamous list of “scumbags” who are giving Upper Darby a bad name.

Township police are investigating the “savage beating” of a 3-month-old boy. The tot is now in Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, in critical condition with severe head trauma, bleeding on the brain and three broken ribs.

Chitwood doesn’t mince words when it comes to his investigations. You get the feeling he’d love to get his hands on whoever is responsible for putting this defenseless baby in this condition.

That’s where he’s having a bit of a problem. Police were alerted to the situation by a baby sitter who worked for the family in the 3700 block of Taylor Road.

Chitwood says the baby sitter has been cooperating and has even passed a polygraph test.

The same can’t be said for the baby’s parents. Chitwood indicated they have retained lawyers and are not cooperating with authorities.

No one has been charged in the case, and Chitwood was not labeling the parents as suspects.

But a 3-month-old baby is in the hospital with horrific injuries. The child did not get in that condition on his own.

Chtiwood has a favorite term for people who commit such acts. It would certainly seem to fit for whoever is responsible for inflicting such harm on a defenseless baby.

The verdict for Angela Honeycutt

The verdict is in on Angela Honeycutt.

She’s the 38-year-old who was on trial in Bucks County on charges connected to a sleepover turned into something akin to “Moms Gone Wild.”

But the jury apparently did not believe the tale told by the two teen boys, 14 and 15, who claimed that not only did Honeycutt perform something of a strip-tease for them, undress and then invite them into the shower, but that she had sex with them once they were lathered up.

The jury acquitted Honeycutt of the most serious felony charges of statutory sexual assault. They convicted her only of the misdemeanor charges of corrupting the morals of a minor.

After the verdict came in, Honeycutt admitted she made a lot of bad choices that night, but steadfastly repeated her story that she did not have sex with either of the boys. The jury believed her.

Getting everyone else out there whose tongues are still wagging over the details in the case might prove a tad more difficult.

A Giant test for Eagles

The Eagles season could last two more days. Then again, they might live for another week.

All the Birds have to do to keep their season alive is stroll up the Jersey Turnpike Sunday and knock off the New York Giants.

The Eagles continue to cling to their slim playoff hopes. They can’t afford another loss.

They are operating week to week. Win and they live for another seven days. Lose and the fat lady sings. You can start the Kevin Kolb era.

The Eagles won’t face one of the guys who seems to torture them. That would be Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. Burress shot himself in the thigh with an unlicensed gun last weekend. That earned him a suspension by the team and a spot on the non-sports injury list. That effectively ends his season, including the playoffs.

You can make the argument that the Giants are distracted and don’t need the game nearly as much as the Eagles, although a win would lock up the NFC East for them.

I remain unconvinced the Eagles have turned any corners, despite their showing Thanksgiving night against the Cardinals.

Check back tomorrow for my dreaded Saturday Eagles pick.

Here’s a hint: I don’t feel real good about this game.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 4

The Daily Numbers: 108,413 dollars, the amount believed embezzled from an Upper Darby firm by a Broomall man who police allege put family members and friends on the payroll even though they did not work there.
2,242 dollars believed skimmed from the booster club by the former golf coach at Penncrest High School.
0 people who showed up last night for the public hearing on the county’s $303,284,000 spending plan, which will not raise taxes.
80 dollar tax hike looming for residents of Collingdale under the new borough budget.
113,467 dollar annual salary for Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi. He is now leading the effort to return legislators’
recent cost of living pay hikes.
1,020 dollars in donations that came into our Merry Christmas Fund yesterday. As usual, Delco opens its hearts – and wallets – to those in need, especially around the holidays. All funds from the Merry Christmas Fund benefit the Salvation Army.
300,000 dollars, value of home being given away by Pulte Homes Inc. at halftime of next week’s Eagles Monday night game to someone who can throw a football through a hole in a mini version of one of their houses from 20 yards away.
4,000 fans who signed up to take their best shot – or throw – at it.
Three fans will be selected at random for the halftime show.
38, age of Andrew Mogilyansky of Bucks County. He ran a charity effort to help the survivors of the Beslan school rampage in Russia. Now he’s charged with having sex with some of the kids and putting them to work in a prostitution ring.
38, age of Angela Honeycutt, the Bucks County woman who is charged with having sex with two underage boys in the shower at a sleepover that spun out of control. The jury is now mulling her fate.
5.6 percent jobless rate in the Philadelphia region in October. That’s up from 4.1 percent.
7 percent dip in passenger traffic reported by US Airways; Southwest said its traffic was down 8 percent.
1 billion dollars, what Verizon told Philadelphia City Council it would invest in the city to bring its FIOS fiber optic TV and internet service in as a challenger to Comcast.
1,510 feet, height of proposed American Commerce Center in Center City Philadelphia. City Council gave an initial OK yesterday for the $1.1 billion project. It would be the city’s tallest, easily eclipsing the new Comcast Center, and would be among the tallest in the world.
128 million dollars, how much more Gov. Ed Rendell is proposing cutting from the state budget. That brings the total of cuts to $440 million.
The state is looking at a deficit that could hit $1 billion.
2,000 dollar diamond ring that was dropped in a collection kettle of the Salvation Army outside a supermarket in a Pittsburgh suburb.
1 cent dip in price of gas at the pump, with the Philly average now being $1.96.
32 points for Kobe Bryant as the Lakers smoked the Sixers last night at the Wavhovia Center.
4 to 5 weeks, what Flyers star Danny Briere is likely to miss with continuing groin problems.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Who says Philly does not like Kobe Bryant? It was hard to tell who was the home team last night as the Lakers’ star and Lower Merion High grad was serenaded with chants of “MVP” at the Wachovia Center.
I Don’t Get It: You’d have to turn over a lot of rocks to find the equivalent of one Andrew Mogilyansky, if the charges against him are true. The Bucks County millionaire ran a charity foundation to help the children who survived the Beslan school rampage in Russia. Now he’s charged with going to Russia to have sex with some of them and using them in a prostitution ring.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Sen. Domini Pileggi and all the other state legislators who are coming to their senses and looking for ways for state pols to forego that cost of living increase.

Quote Box: “He took what little they had - their innocence and their dignity.
-- U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid, announcing charges against a Bucks businessman accused of going to Russia to have sex with children who survived the Beslan rampage.

Storm clouds over stadium project?

The timing of the groundbreaking for the Chester soccer stadium probably could have been a little better.

Less than 48 hours later, Gov. Ed Rendell, one of the big boosters of the stadium project, was announcing a new wave of budget cuts as the state continues to wallow in red ink.

Rendell is looking to trim $128 million. He’s freezing cost-of-living raises for a lot of state employees. State legislators are now falling all over themselves looking to give back their own COLA pay hike.

The total of cuts Rendell has rolled out now is approaching $440 million. But the state is looking at what some experts believe could be as much as a $1 billion deficit.

That soccer stadium project includes $47 million in state funding, along with another $30 million from Delaware County.

That is adding fuel to the fire of those who believe it’s silly to throw public money into such projects. They argue the stadium will only be used on a small amount of dates, and that the state has no business underwriting the “playpen” of a bunch of rich athletes and even richer owners.

The flip side made by Rendell, Sen. Dominic Pileggi and others is that the stadium is merely one part – albeit likely the crucial one – in a $500 development project along the Chester waterfront.

But with the economy in freefall, there now are some storm clouds surrounding parts of the development. As you might have heard, it’s not a great market out there right now. Those townhouses and apartments that were supposed to surround the stadium, along with lots of office and retail space, are still on the drawing board. The problem could be if that’s where they remain.

I think we likely have not heard the last of the talk about public funding of stadium projects. If the state’s finances continue to nosedive, along with the economy, and other aspects of the Chester waterfront project don’t come to fruition, there will be lots of kicking and screaming, and not just on that soccer field.

The case of Angela Honeycutt

A Bucks County jury this morning will take up the case of Angela Honeycutt.

No doubt you likely have heard of her by now.

If not, let me bring you up to date.

Honeycutt is on trial for having sex with two underage teen boys at a sleepover that spun out of control.

You think?

The party for the teens was at the home of Honeycutt’s friend Lynne Long-Higham. She’s 46. Honeycutt is 39.

A bunch of boys and girls showed up for the party at Long-Higham’s Lower Makefield house. Eventually the girls went home, as did most of the boys. A few remained for a sleepover.

That’s when Honeycutt apparently decided to supply a little entertainment.

The two women, who were supposed to be chaperoning, apparently felt the need to share a bottle of wine. Not a good idea. It would not be the last of the evening. Things were just getting warmed up.

According to testimony of the two underage teen boys, Honeycutt decided to put on something of a show. She danced suggestively, talked about sex and eventually stripped. Then she headed for the shower, where authorities allege she had sex with one teen and molested the other.

She’s now on trial for sexually assaulting the two boys.

For her part, Honeycutt admits being in the shower, but insists she did nothing more than kiss them. She admits her behavior was less than ideal. OK, so she’s probably not going to be nominated as mother of the year anytime soon.

But the fascinating aspect of this case is the way the public has reacted to it.

There seems to be a split over outrage at the allegations and the woman’s conduct, and whether or not these two kids were actually “assaulted.”

Legally, if what happened in the shower is as the testimony has alleged, that’s pretty clear.

But there remains a not small amount of sentiment out there that believes these kids are not victims at all. It has to do with how we look at sex, specifically the fact that this is a woman charged for a sex act with two kids more than 20 years younger than her.

One of the boys also indicated he was teased at school by some girls after news of the party started spreading.

But here’s another way of looking at it. Flip the ages and the sexes in this case. Suppose this is a 39-year-old man charged with taking two underage girls into a shower and having sex with them. What do you think the reaction would be then?

I thought so.

Bet the house on it

I’ve heard of a lot of wild giveaways, but this one might take the cake.

Actually, it might take the whole damn house. Literally.

Pulte Homes Inc. has teamed with the Eagles for a wild stunt in which some lucky fan could win a $300,000 home at halftime of next week’s Monday night game against the Browns.

All you have to do is throw a football through a small hole in a miniature version of a Pulte home that will be on the field. Oh, and you have to do it from 20 yards away.

Guess that rules out Donovan McNabb. I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

More than 4,000 fans have signed up for the contest through the Eagles Web site. Three will be picked at random.

Throw the pigskin through the hole, and you get the real thing, A $300,000 home, or that amount toward the purchase of a home at one of Pulte’s 17 developments in the region.

I know home sales are way off – isn’t everything? – but I’m not sure I’ve heard of anyone giving away an entire house.

Maybe win a new car by kicking a ball through the uprights, but a house?

As they say in Vegas, you can bet the house on it.

Maybe Kobe can go home again

The Sixers faced an interesting dilemma last night.

It appeared, at least for awhile, that they were not the favorite team, or at least not the fans’ favorite player.

That’s interesting for a couple of reasons. For one, this was a home game, at the Wachovia Center.

Second, the object of the fans’ cheers was one Kobe Bryant. The former Lower Merion High star has not always had a warm relationship with Philly fans.

Some really never warmed up to Bryant, who was looked at as more of a suburban kid. He didn’t help matters much when the Sixers faced the Lakers in the finals a few years ago and Bryant said he wanted to “cut their hearts out.”

But you would be hard-pressed to see any lingering hard feelings last night. Chants of MVP rained down on the Lakers’ star as he casually dropped 32 points on the Sixers as the Lakers rolled to a 114-102 win.

That was last night. This morning the Sixers actually might have bigger problems. Elton Brand left last night’s game with a hamstring injury after scoring just three points.

Maybe the fans were just ticked at the slow start by the Sixers, who are now 8-11 after some fairly lofty expectations, especially after Delco native Ed Stefanski added Brand in the off-season.

Or maybe it was just the fans finally saluting a local kid who has made good.

Maybe you can go home again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 3

The Daily Numbers: 3 masked gunmen who invaded a home in Marple Township, tied up the couple, then ransacked the house.
19,000 dollars in jewelry swiped by burglars from a home in Middletown recently.
2 children of a man found murdered in Middletown who have been charged with spying on their father. They are not charged in his death.
200 bucks that’s trickled into our Merry Christmas Fund since the initial $10,000 donation from Boeing employees. We’re off to a slow start. Unfortunately this year the need is greater than ever. All proceeds from the fund go to the Salvation Army.
1,000 Vicodin pills police say were ripped off from a CVS drug store in Upper Chichester by a West Chester man.
0 tax hike in Springfield, although residents will see a $50 increase in trash fees.
303 million dollars in expenditures contained in the Delaware County
2009 budget plan rolled out yesterday. It does not include a tax hike.
44 students who could be booted out of Penn-Delco School District unless they can verify that they are residents. The district is cracking down on non-residents illegally attending their schools.
11,000 dollars snagged by robbers who hit the Forman Mills store on Rising Sun Avenue in the Olney section of Philadelphia early this morning.
13 percent increase in revenues at Pennsylvania’s 6 casinos – including Harrah’s in Chester – during November. What recession?
10,000 dollar reward posted for the arrest of the suspect in the murder of a man after an argument at 40th and Ludlow streets in Philadelphia on Oct. 17. The reward has been posted by the U.S. Marshals Service.
128 million bucks, value of Mega Millions lottery jackpot Tuesday night.
Tickets are only sold in New Jersey.
85 fugitives nabbed by authorities in Philly in a sting operation in which people showed up believing they were getting economic stimulus checks. Instead they were arrested on a variety of outstanding warrants.
300,000 dollars, value of a ring ripped from a jewelry store in King of Prussia Mall over the weekend.
15, age of boy who took the stand yesterday in trial of woman charged with holding a sleepover that turned into a sex party in Bucks County.
4 game losing streak snapped last night by the the Sixers, who topped Chicago in OT.
16 point lead the Sixers blew before posting the win in overtime.
8 straight wins to start the season for Villanova men’s hoops team. They rolled over Penn at the Palestra last night.
2 more tykes for Donovan McNabb. His wife gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Maybe Donovan McNabb is not the only one who does not know all the rules of his game. What was the Flyers Scottie Hartnell thinking of when he threw his glove at a Tampa forward going in on a breakaway? Luckily, goalie Martin Biron blocked the penalty shot the Lightning were awarded because of Hartnell’s blunder.
I Don’t Get It: Another game, another sport, another athlete who does not know the rules of the game. What exactly did Scott Hartnell expect to accomplish by throwing his glove at a Tampa Bay player. And yet, all is forgiven in Flyers-ville. Lucky Hartnell does not play for the Eagles.
Today’s Upper: Donovan McNabb can use all the good news he can get.
Kudos to him and his wife, Roxie, who are the proud parents of twins, a boy and girl.

Quote Box: “They are excellent students. They are good kids. They try hard in everything they do.
-- Brea Morgan, 14, on her peers at the new Allied Health High School in the Chester Upland School District that was unveiled last night.

Mean streets

Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe people are being driven to extreme measures out of need. Or maybe people some people are just plain no good.

Whatever the reason, the streets of Delaware County seem to be getting increasingly dangerous.

Suddenly home invasions appear to be the crime of choice. In Marple Township, police are looking for three armed men who barged into a home in a quiet Lawrence Park neighborhood, tied up a man and woman in their 60s, and then ransacked the house.

Luckily, the man was able to get loose, get out of the house and call police. But by then the suspects were long gone. Neither the man nor his wife were seriously injured, but their psyche, and that of the neighborhood, was shattered. In more and more neighborhoods it appears people’s vision of suburban safety is being increasingly threatened.

The Marple incident comes just a few days after a man and woman were held at gunpoint as they returned to their Middletown home. They surrendered their wallet and purse. The incident seems to be part of a trend in the western end of the county, where state police are investigating a series of robberies in Chadds Ford, Glen Mills and Middletown.

Police believe the duo simply walk up and knock on doors of homes they believe to be empty. If no one answers, they break in and rifle the house. In one instance, they got $19,000 worth of jewelry from a home in Middletown.

So far no one has been injured.

Hoa Pham and his wife were not as lucky.

An intruder barged into their Upper Darby home thinking they were not home, only to be confronted by the startled couple. The suspect then terrorized the couple for hours, brutally beating them. Pham died of his injuries. His wife was severely beaten. No suspects have been arrested in the case.

It came just a few weeks after a woman was killed in her Long Lane apartment, just a few blocks away.

The lesson? You can’t be too careful. Lock your doors. And your windows.

The streets are getting increasingly mean out there.

Cheers for Rick Tocchet

Give Flyers fans this much. They are a fiercely loyal, forgiving bunch.

When they love you, you can do no wrong. And the feelings don’t fade over time. They stay in your corner. That’s why Bob Clarke, Bernie Parent and Dave Schultz continue to be beloved icons in this town.
Winning a couple of Stanley Cups doesn’t hurt either.

Last night Flyers fans again showed they will not abandon one of their own.

In the third period, an image appeared on the jumbotron that sparked a standing ovation from the Wachovia Center faithful. The image was that of longtime Flyers favorite Rick Tocchet.

Last night Tocchet was behind the bench. Not the Flyers’ bench. Tocchet is the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was made the interim coach after the team sacked Barry Melrose after a disappointing start.

That’s not even the most startling aspect of the ovation. Tocchet, you might recall, entered a guilty plea for his role in a gambling ring. It was ballyhooed as Operation Slapshot when it was first announced, but it turned out to be a pretty small-time betting operation.

That didn’t stop Tocchet from being charged in connection with the betting ring. He entered a plea, making him a convicted felon. It’s believed he likely is the only such con currently coaching a major sports team.

There has always been something about hockey players that separated them from most sports superstars. Maybe it was the fact that so many of them came from small towns in Canada and appeared at times a bit overwhelmed when they arrived in the big NHL cities. They for the most part seemed much more down to earth, approachable, even neighborly. In short, they seemed like one of us.

In this town, players who don the orange and white are rarely abandoned by the faithful.

Rick Tocchet does not shy away from talking about his problems. He met them head-on. He admitted his mistakes. He entered a plea in the case.
And he paid a fairly steep price – banned from the game he loved for a couple of years.

Now he’s back, as a head coach no less. You can argue the merits of that all you want, what kind of message that sends. And whether or not he merits a standing ovation. It seems to me it sends exactly the right message.

Tocchet paid for his transgressions. Now he’s getting on with his life.
A big part of the life was spent in orange and black. The faithful have not forgotten.

I have just one question. I don’t know when, but at some time in the future I would hope that Eric Lindros will return to the Wachovia Center. Lindros, the concussion king and one-time league MVP, caused a massive fissure in the Flyers’ organization when he questioned the care he received from their training staff and then engaged in a bitter war of words with icon and then-GM Bob Clarke.

Fans seemed split between their loyalties for the Flyers and their support for the team’s troubled star.

I’d like to see the team at some point retire Lindros’ No. 88 jersey, just to see what kind of reaction he will get.

No Plaxico for Eagles

Well there’s one piece of good news for the Eagles as they prepare to face the Giants at the Meadowlands on Sunday. They won’t have to face longtime nemesis Plaxico Burress.

You may have heard the Giants wide receiver got himself into something of a scrape at a nightclub last weekend. That is when he accidentally shot himself in the leg. I’ll leave this whole notion of athletes and guns to someone else. I don’t get it, but then they live in a world completely foreign to me. All I know is that if I feared some kind of confrontation, I think I would avoid situations that might put me – and the livelihood that pays me millions – in jeopardy.

Burress was packing heat, now he’s feeling heat after being criminally charged with possessing an illegal weapon. It carries a penalty of three and a half to 15 years in the slammer if he’s convicted.

The Giants aren’t waiting that long. Yesterday they handed out their own sense of justice. They suspended their star for the final four games of the regular season. Burress also was placed on the reserve non-football injury list, which makes him ineligible for the playoffs as well. The general thinking is that he has played his last game for the Giants.

And that’s not the team’s only problem connected to the incident, either. Authorities want to talk to starting middle linebacker Antonio Pierce about the shooting. Pierce was with Burress at the nightclub. So far he has failed to make himself available for questioning. He could be suspended as well.

The matter didn’t seem to faze the Giants at all last weekend as they steamrolled the Redskins.

And therein lies the real problem for the Eagles. This game likely will not be decided by the Giants’ wide receivers. Rather it will up to the Eagles to stop New York’s relentless running attack, and force the game into the hands of quarterback Eli Manning.

It says here the Birds fail, that the Giants merely run the ball right down their throat as they did the last time, when they racked up over 200 yards on the ground.

Maybe the Eagles defense will prove me wrong. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 2

The Daily Numbers: 50 members of the Sons of Ben who were on hand for a sunrise tailgate party yesterday to mark the groundbreaking for the new soccer stadium in Chester.
2,000 seats in the 18,6340-seat facility that have been reserved for Sons of Ben members.
186 townhouses, 225 apartments, 200,000 square foot convention center, 42,000 square feet of retail space, 435,000 square feet of office space and a 1,350-space parking facility that were all supposed to be part of a $500 economic development along the riverfront. Developers yesterday indicated they may have to adjust some of those numbers in light of the economic downturn.
2 ski-masked bandits armed with shotguns who held up a thrift store in Collingdale.
2.8 percent cost of living increase for state legislators that will be turned down by newly elected Rep. Nick Miccarelli, who will serve the 162nd District. State Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-160, also indicated he will be donating his increase to the Daily Times Merry Christmas Fund, which benefits the Salvation Army.
78,315 bucks a year, what a state rep will make after the COLA increase. That’s up from $76,163.
9 hour standoff between a man suspected in a murder and police outside West Chester yesterday that ended when the suspect took his own life.
35 million dollars in revenue expected to be generated by this weekend’s Army-Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field. That includes 50,000 out-of-town visitors filling 17,000 hotel rooms.
19 billion cards, letters and packages expected to go through the mail this holiday season, according to postal officials. Dec. 20 is the deadline for priority and first-class mail to be delivered by Christmas.
Other key dates: Dec. 11 for anything headed overseas; Dec. 16 for parcel post in the domestic U.S.
900,000 hunters who headed for the hills across the state yesterday to mark the first day of the rifle deer season in Pennsylvania.
55,000 promotional brochures promising free gambling and meals that were mailed out by mistake by the owners of the Holiday Casino at Penn National Race Course near Harrisburg. They were supposed to go only to 1,000 of their best customers.
33 floors, how far a man plunged to his death from the Loews Hotel in center city yesterday morning.
5 percent decline in revenue collections in November in Pa. That makes 7 straight months revenue has been down in the state.
10,000 dollars and 50 video games ripped off by a gunman who hit the Game Stop store in the Parkside section of Philly yesterday.
3 cent decline in cost of gas over the weekend. Average price in the region is now down to $1.98.
4 straight losses for the Sixers, who face Chicago again tonight.
100,000 dollars bail for Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who is free while facing gun charges that likely will keep him out of the lineup again Sunday when the Eagles invade the Meadowlands.
0 losses for Villanova men’s hoops team. They put their unblemished mark on the line at the Palestra tonight against Penn.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Want to know how good the Eagles are, or aren’t? We’ll find out Sunday, when the Birds get their second shot at the Giants. Win and they keep their playoffs alive and salvage a little pride from a disappointing season. Lose and the season is over.
I Don’t Get It: What is it with athletes and guns? Some apparently believe they need them for self-defense when they’re out in the public.
Ever think about not putting yourself in those kinds of situations?
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Republican Nick Miccarelli, who won the state House 162nd seat. He’s going to forego his cost of living increase. And to Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-160, who will donate his to the Merry Christmas Fund. Bravo, gentlemen!

Quote Box: “It’s fantastic. It’s really a dream come true, I’m looking forward to coming down to Chester more.
-- Mark Orr, a member of the Sons of Ben soccer booster group from Quakertown, on yesterday’s groundbreaking ceremonies in Chester for new stadium that will be home to the region’s MLS franchise.

'Ben' there, done that in Chester

If you build it, will they come?

When it comes to Chester and pro soccer, that is still to be determined.

But if you hold a press conference to celebrate the official groundbreaking for the new stadium that will be home for the region’s new Major League Soccer franchise, you can rest assured the Sons of Ben will be there.

For those of you not yet infected with soccer fever, the Sons of Ben (who take their name from Ben Franklin) are the manic soccer booster organization that is in large part responsible for professional soccer coming to the region.

Yesterday’s groundbreaking ceremony in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge in Chester was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. The Sons of Ben decided to show up a tad earlier.

They were in place just after the sun game up at 7 a.m. to literally kick off pro soccer in the region with a morning tailgate party.

And yes, that’s them gracing the front page of the print edition of the newspaper today, in full Sons of Ben regalia, including banners declaring Kick Start Chester.

These zealots are more than just another band of soccer fanatics, however. Yesterday, for the second straight year, they were collecting food for the Bernardine Center in Chester.

They’re also putting their money where their scarves are.

The group already has generated more than 3,000 season ticket sales on their own. They actually will be getting a full section of the stadium to call their own. Total season ticket sales have now gone over 5,000.
That leaves a pretty good chunk of seats that still need to be filled.

Still, the mood along the Chester waterfront was upbeat yesterday.

Mayor Wendell Butler hailed the occasion. “Chester is on the way back,”
he proclaimed.

For Bryan James, head of the Sons of Ben, it was the culmination of more than two years of work.

“This makes it all real,” Bryan said. “Once the stadium is a reality, that’s where we’re going to be playing.”

The truth is, these guys are as real as it gets.

If you build it, will they come? That’s easy enough to answer for James and his buddies.

Now the question is whether the rest of the region will climb on board.

Govs send SOS to Obama

President-elect Barack Obama is coming to town today.

He will be in Philadelphia to meet with the nation’s governors, including our own Gov. Ed Rendell.

He will be greeted by a four-letter word. No, not that one.

This one: Help!

Many states, including Pennsylvania, are being hard hit by the economic downturns. The Keystone State yesterday reported revenue collections continue to be way off.

The nation’s governors have heard all about the bailout plans being bandied about in Washington, D.C. First it was banks, then some insurance giants. Not the Big Three automakers are in the nation’s capital with their hand out.

Now the governors want their share.

They will push Obama for a little economic stimulus of their own.

Rendell happens to be the chairman of the National Governors Association.

That means he will get Obama’s ear. Let’s hope the president-elect is listening.

Cheeks feeling the heat?

It turns out Andy Reid is not the only local pro coach whose posterior is a tad warm.

Mo Cheeks’ Sixers club is not exactly off to the kind of start people envisioned after they surged into the playoffs at the end of last season, then added big man Elton Brand in the off-season.

It’s a pretty good guess that this is not what Delco native Ed Stefanski had in mind when he gave Cheeks a contract extension last year. The Sixers now sit at a less than mediocre 7-10. They’ve lost four straight, including Sunday’s loss to the Bulls when they blew a 15-point lead, in the process watching Chicago go on a 20-2 run and race to a 19-point edge.

Tonight the two hook up again in Chicago. The Sixers need a win. So does Cheeks. The schedule after tonight’s game gets even tougher, with dates with the Lakers, Pistons and Nets looming.

In these instances, the players don’t usually change. But the coach does. Cheeks’ seat is getting warm.

If the team does not reverse its current play, it will get even warmer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Dec. 1

The Daily Numbers: 18,500 seats that will be in the stadium being built in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge in Chester that will house the region’s new MLS franchise.
115 million price tag on the project, including a pretty good chunk of taxpayer money.
3,500 strong, membership in the Sons of Ben group that pushed to make the soccer dream a reality in the Philadelphia region.
14, age of girl who reported to police that a man tried to force her into his car outside Granite Run Mall over the weekend.
3 people shot during a home break-in in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia.
1 bar employee killed and 1 injured in Bensalem when a customer who had been kicked out got in his truck and, according to police, circled the parking lot several times before ramming them and the tavern.
3 people charged in an assault on a Delaware state trooper along Route 13 in New Castle.
100 residents who fled their Wilmington apartment building Sunday when a fire broke out. It was contained to one unit. No serious injuries were reported.
86,609 dollars, what you would shell out if for some reason you were compelled to purchase the items in the “12 Days of Christmas” holiday carol.
2,285 dollars for 11 pipers piping, the most expensive item on the list.
The cheapest? 20 bucks for a partridge.
3 hour delays in some arriving flights at Philly International Sunday because of bad weather elsewhere in the country.
78, age of veteran Pa. U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who could face a challenge in 2010 from MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews.
60 bucks, what you’ll spend to be able to smell like Penn State. The university is now marketing men’s cologne and women’s perfume.
1.99, what we’re paying for a gallon of gas in the Philly region on average as prices continue to fall at the pump.
7 wins and 10 losses for the Sixers, who fell at home to the Bulls last night.
15 point lead for the Sixers early in the second quarter.
19 point deficit for them in the second half.
1 game behind the Redskins for the Eagles, who continue to cling to their long-shot playoff plans.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.At some point Andy Reid will understand the value of a running game. Of course, that could come after he is relieved of his duties as head coach of the Eagles. Or he could simply take a look across the sidelines this coming Sunday, when his team goes up the Jersey Turnpike to play the Giants.
I Don’t Get It: I’ve never liked the whole concept of Black Friday. Now a couple of incidents ended in fatalities, including a Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death by a horde of customers seconds after opening the doors early Friday. Now there’s the true meaning of the season.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the Sons of Ben, who are kicking off their second annual holiday food drive today to coincide with groundbreaking for the new soccer stadium in Chester.

Quote Box: “I hope that this really begins to ramp up the excitement for the team and it becomes a hot ticket.”
-- Bryan James, spokesperson for the Sons of James, on today’s groundbreaking ceremonies in Chester.

Another huge day for Chester

Here we go again.

I was one of those people who scoffed when I first heard of the possibility that they were considering putting a horse-racing facility in Chester.

Call me when Mayor Wendell Butler is standing in front of the ribbon with one of those big pairs of scissors, I replied, content in the notion it would never happen.

My eyebrows were raised when Harrah’s got involved, and it became clear that Chester also was going to be the site of one of the state’s prized new slots casino locations.

Needless to say I was wrong about what is now the glittering Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack.

I have to admit I had much the same feeling when I heard about the proposal to build a stadium in the city to lure a Major League Soccer franchise.

Today that project also will take a huge step toward becoming reality when they break ground for the stadium, in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

As has been the case every step of this long process, the Sons of Ben will be very much in evidence today. They are the local soccer boosters who have pushed for an MLS franchise for the region for years.

They will use today’s groundbreaking ceremony to kick off their annual holiday food drive to help the needy in Chester.

It’s another big day for the city, and the county.

And yes, I was wrong about Chester.

Again. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Black Friday indeed

I’ve never been a fan of Black Friday.

I’ve never quite understood what allure there is to leaving your home in the middle of the night to stand in line outside a store that is opening at a ridiculously early hour just to get a few so-called “bargains.”

It has always struck me as everything that is wrong with the holiday season.

But this year it took on a whole new, ugly meaning.

In at least two instances, the traditional start of the Black Friday holiday shopping season turned deadly.

Authorities in Long Island say the crowd that had been waiting outside a Wal-Mart store stormed the doors when it finally opened. In the process a store employee was trampled to death.

Not that that was enough to stop these crazed shoppers from their appointed rounds. People went about their business and were actually upset to learn the store was going to be closed.

Wouldn’t want to let a little thing like someone’s death stand in the way of getting that “must” Christmas gift.

And in California, a dispute over some items in a Toys R Us ended in gunfire, with one person dead.

I have been railing for years about the commercialization of Christmas and my yearning to get back to a simpler time and the true meaning of the holiday.

I thought maybe the downturn in the economy this year would help move us in that direction.

Maybe not.

One more week for Gang Green

Don’t stick a fork in those Eagles just yet.

Yes, I know we were all tempted to include their giblets with the rest of our Thanksgiving feasts. But like Lazarus, this team refuses to go away, or make just about anything easy, either on themselves or their fans.

The Eagles gave us all another reason to be thankful Thursday night when they ran roughshod over the Cardinals. In the process they managed to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.

The key word there in that last paragraph is run. It might as well be a foreign word to the pass-happy Andy Reid, but that is the reason they dominated the Cardinals, and all too often have been dominated this season. The Eagles actually established a running game Thanksgiving night with Brian Westbrook. More importantly, they stuck with it.

Mix in a few well-placed runs by Donovan McNabb, and you have the ingredients that make for winning football.

Of course, the next day Reid was up to his old tricks with the media.
The coach was coy when it came to talking about the Eagles running the football, and his penchant for abandoning the run if it is not successful early.

Hopefully, Reid had a chance to watch yesterday’s Giants-Redskins affair. The Giants continue to literally run roughshod over opponents.
Jumbo running back Brandon Jacobs had another big day.

The good news is that the Redskins are now just a game ahead of the Eagles in the Wild Card race.

The bad news is that the Giants are up next for the Eagles, 1 p.m.
Sunday at the Meadowlands. It will provide a true test for the Eagles on both sides of the ball.

It will be interesting to see if Reid continues to at least try to run the ball. And if McNabb will continue to take off when his receivers are covered. It also will provide a much truer test of the Eagles defense.
My thoughts on the Birds’ “D” is that they’re a bit of a fraud. The Cardinals, much like the Eagles, didn’t even try to run the ball.

The Eagles won’t have that luxury against the G-men. They know they will come out and try to run the ball down their throat. Just as they did the first time the two teams tangled.

The Eagles are alive for at least one more week. And it means fans will have to invest one more Sunday afternoon in Gang Green.

A loss Sunday might finally kill them off. And a win? Well then just about anything might be possible.